Does Lupus Cause Nerve Damage?

Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018

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How common is nerve damage in people with lupus myositis and is there a way to prevent it?

Doctor's response

Damage to the nerves can occur in patients with lupus, with or without myositis (muscle inflammation). Most commonly, this is due to inflammation of many of the nerves on both sides of the body, called peripheral neuropathy. This condition can cause damage to the nerves of sensation and/or the nerves that stimulate normal muscle movement. Peripheral neuropathy is reported to occur in approximately 15% of patients with lupus at some times and occurs in 2% when their disease first becomes apparent. A less common form of nerve damage involves the major nerves that are distributed from the brain to the body - the cranial nerves. This nerve damage is called cranial neuropathy and occurs in approximately less than 5% of lupus patients at any time during their illness and in 1-2% of patients at the time of initial diagnosis.

Prevention of lupus neuropathy is similar to preventing any other manifestation of lupus. That means it requires diligent monitoring of one's own symptoms and regular visits to one's doctor. Patients with lupus generally can minimize their risk for activating their disease by avoiding sun exposure (ultraviolet light) and taking their medications as prescribed by their doctor. (A common cause for lupus flare is an interruption in the dosing schedule of medications, especially cortisone medications such as prednisone.)

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