Can You Have Both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus?

Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are both forms of arthritis which affect the autoimmune system resulting to attack of healthy body tissues. A recent study has shown that an average rheumatoid arthritis patient has 1.6 comorbidities (the existence of more than one disease in a person, usually independent of each other). The risk of having more than one disease increases* with the patient’s age.

Research has also shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis are at high risk of developing comorbid disorders and that the conditions may have similar features making it difficult to diagnose.

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Both rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can be diagnosed by looking at the following:

  • Subcutaneous nodules in specific places
  • Morning stiffness. This can be experienced at least one hour in the morning for at least six months
  • Hand joints arthritis. This should be present for six weeks
  • Soft tissue swelling. This should be in at least in 3 of at least 14 joints and be present for at least 6 weeks
  • Symmetric arthritis. This should be present for at least six weeks
  • Joint erosion suggested by radiological changes
  • Rheumatoid factors that is above 95th percentile
Autoimmune System

For you to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at least four of the symptoms above should be met.
In lupus, the following symptoms can be used to diagnose the disorders:

  • Photosensitivity. The skin develops a rash as a reaction to sunlight.
  • Malar rash. This is a butterfly shaped rash across the nose and cheeks.
  • Non-sensitive arthritis. This form of arthritis does not destroy bones around the joints. This can affect two or more joints resulting to tenderness and swelling.
  • Kidney disorder. This happens when there is excess protein in the urine. (proteinuria).
  • Cardiopulmonary involvement. This occurs when there is inflammation of the linings around the lungs(pleuritis) or the heart (pericarditis).
  • Painful mouth and nose ulcers.
  • Discoid rash. The scars are raised and they cause scars.
  • Neurologic disorder and seizure.
  • Immunologic disorder.
  • Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) positive test in absence of drugs known to cause it.
  • Hematologic disorder. This is a blood disorder that causes low red blood cells count (hemolytic anemia), low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) and low white blood cell count (leukopenia).

Lupus foundation of America says that about 5 to 30% of people with lupus report having overlap symptoms. Overlapping is when you have symptoms of more than one disease. The likelihood of having lupus and rheumatoid arthritis is 1%

There are 1.5 million people in America living with lupus and the 1% accounts for approximately 15000 people with both lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus have some similar symptoms such as joint pain, tenderness and swelling making an accurate diagnosis of the disease difficult. A study published by the Journal of Rheumatology done on 603 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis indicated that 15.5% of the patients showed at least four or more symptoms of lupus after 25 years since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. This study concluded that lupus symptoms are common in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Lupus Symptoms

Some research has shown the possible genetic connection. A study published in New England Journal of Medicine (2007) showed genetic variations that increase* the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematous (lupus). The research showed one variant form of gene was present at high frequency in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. It is also showed that some variants of the STATA gene were strongly linked with lupus. Individuals who carry two copies of the disease risk variant form of the STAT4 gene have 60% increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and double or more risk of developing lupus compared to people who carry no copies of the variant form.

Many patients are not aware they have both diseases. This has also been contributed by the lack of definitive test and symptoms overlap. A rheumatologist can be helpful in diagnosis and overseeing the treatment.

Many medication used to treat* rheumatoid arthritis are also used to treat* lupus. Some of these medications include prednisone, methotrexate and plaquenil.

When you have both lupus and rheumatoid arthritis just take care of your body, be engaged in exercises, get plenty of rest, have a nutritious food, and take your medication and you will be able to manage the conditions.


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Contributor : Beth Solomon (Consumer Health Digest)

Beth Solomon has been writing articles on health for more than two years with a concentration on pain management and men’s and women’s health and fitness. She has been a contributing editor to Consumer Health Digest since 2013.

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