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Lupus Overlap Diseases

If you are newly diagnosed you may have heard the term “lupus overlap disease” mentioned by your doctor or another medical professional. If you have wondered what a “lupus overlap disease” means, what their possible symptoms are, causes, and treatments … you have come to the right place.

A lupus overlap disease is a disorder or disease that occurs in conjunction with your lupus. Although lupus can occur alone, many people with lupus experience an onset of one or more other connective tissue diseases. In these instances, a physician may use the term “overlap” to describe the illness. It has been found that people who have autoimmune diseases (that is when your body’s own defense system, your immune system, attacks your healthy cells by mistake) are more prone to develop other autoimmune diseases. As I have mentioned before, autoimmune diseases like to party together and often show up at your door like uninvited party guests.

Some of The most common diseases that overlap with lupus:

  • Antiphospholipid syndrome

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Sjogren's Syndrome

  • Raynaud's Syndrome

  • Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

  • Scleroderma

Here are some facts about lupus overlap diseases:

  • Lupus Overlap diseases are most likely to develop shortly after the first diagnosis of lupus.

  • There is no time limit on when a second, third. or forth overlapping autoimmune disease may develop. It is still possible to develop a second autoimmune disease more than ten years after the diagnosis of the first.

  • You can be in remission with one disease and still flare with another disease.

Let’s break them down:

Antiphospholipid syndrome: Antiphospholipid Syndrome occurs when your immune system mistakenly creates antibodies that make your blood much more likely to clot. This can cause dangerous blood clots in the legs, kidneys, lungs and brain. In pregnant women, antiphospholipid syndrome also can result in miscarriage and stillbirth. While up to 40% of patients with SLE will test positive for the anti-phospholipid autoantibodies, only half will develop thrombosis and/or experience miscarriages. Like most autoimmune disorders, APS has a genetic component, although there is not a direct transmission from parent to offspring. There's no cure for antiphospholipid syndrome, but medications can reduce your risk of blood clots. For more information on APS, click here:

Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition can damage the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of regular osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis is what can damage other parts of the body as well. While new types of medications have improved treatment options dramatically, severe rheumatoid arthritis can still cause physical disabilities. For more information on RA click here.

Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and non painful signals. Symptoms often begin after an event, such as physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures also may help. For more information on fibromyalgia click here:

Sjogren's Syndrome: Sjogren's (SHOW-grins) syndrome is a disorder of your immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth. The condition often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In Sjogren's syndrome, the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth are affected— resulting in decreased tears and saliva. Although you can develop Sjogren's syndrome at any age, most people are older than 40 at the time of diagnosis. The condition is much more common in women. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. This is one of the most common autoimmune diseases in America. For more information on Sjogren’s syndrome, check out the Sjogren’s and Lupus foundation of Hawaii here.

Raynaud's Syndrome(ray-NOSE) disease causes some areas of your body — such as your fingers and toes — to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress. In Raynaud's disease, smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin become narrow, limiting blood flow to affected areas (vasospasm).Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud's disease, also known as Raynaud's or Raynaud's phenomenon or syndrome. It appears to be more common in people who live in colder climates. Treatment of Raynaud's disease depends on its severity and whether you have other health conditions. For most people, Raynaud's disease isn't disabling, but it can affect your quality of life. For more information on Raynaud’s disease click here.

Mixed Connective Tissue Disease: Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) has signs and symptoms of a combination of disorders — primarily lupus, scleroderma, and polymyositis. Many people with this uncommon disease also have Sjogren's syndrome. For this reason, MCTD is sometimes called an overlap disease.

In mixed connective tissue disease, the symptoms of the separate diseases usually don't appear all at once. Instead, they tend to occur over a number of years, which can complicate diagnosis. Early signs and symptoms often involve the hands. Fingers might get puffy, and the fingertips become white and numb, often in response to cold exposure. In later stages, some organs — such as the lungs, heart and kidneys — can be affected. There's no cure for mixed connective tissue disease. Treatment depends on how severe the disease is and the organs involved. For more information on MCTD click here.

Scleroderma: Scleroderma (sklair-oh-DUR-muh) is a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. Scleroderma affects women more often than men and most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. While there is no cure for scleroderma, a variety of treatments can ease symptoms and improve quality of life. There are many different types of scleroderma. In some people, scleroderma affects only the skin. But in many people, scleroderma also harms structures beyond the skin, such as blood vessels, internal organs and the digestive tract (systemic scleroderma). Signs and symptoms vary, depending on which type of scleroderma you have. For more information about scleroderma click here.

Also, not mentioned are celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and vasculitis, all are lupus overlap diseases as well.

It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your doctor to discuss all of the symptoms you are experiencing and ensure any potential lupus overlapping diseases are recognized and treated properly.

Written By:

Kelli Roseta

**All resources provided by this blog are for informational purposes only, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. Kelli encourages you to always contact your medical provider with any specific questions or concerns regarding your illness. All intellectual property and content on this site and in this blog is owned This includes materials protected by copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Copyright, More Than Lupus 2021

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