Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s organs. Historically, it caused people to die young. However, people may now live a much longer life.

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that nearly 1.5 million people in the United States are living with lupus. Over 90% of these people are females.

The effects of lupus on your lifespan depend on the severity, frequency, and location of your symptoms, as well as any complications that may develop.

This chronic condition used to cause people to die young, and there’s still no cure.

However, things are now better.

Early diagnosis, careful treatment, and constant monitoring may help 85-90% of people with lupus live a normal lifespan.

The severity and type of lupus symptoms are different for each person.

But, symptoms typically come and go. Flares are when your symptoms worsen and you feel sick, while remission is when they’re better.

Flares may be triggered by:

  • not getting enough rest
  • overworking or being stressed
  • fever, injury, or infection
  • exposure to sun, halogen, or fluorescent light
  • taking certain medications

Although many flares are mild, some could be severe, damage your tissues and organs, or be life-threatening.

Common symptoms• stiffness or pain in your joints and muscles
• swelling in the hands, feet, or around the eyes
• fever, fatigue, or headaches
• sensitivity to light
Other symptoms• skin rashes, such as a red butterfly-shaped rash on your face
• lung or heart inflammation that may cause chest pain when inhaling
• hair loss
• mouth or nose sores
• kidney problems, also known as lupus nephritis
• anemia
• impaired cognitive function, such as memory loss
• blood clots

Speak with a doctor if you’re experiencing a flare. They may help you develop or revise your treatment plan.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in your body and causes inflammation in your organs, joints, and muscles.

It’s estimated that 10-15% of people with lupus may die prematurely due to complications.


Kidneys are the organs most commonly affected by lupus. They’re responsible for removing waste and fluid products from your blood.

Long-term kidney inflammation may cause damage or kidney failure. This is when you lose 85-90% of your kidney function and it could be life-threatening.


Lupus may cause inflammation of the heart and increase a person’s risk of:

  • coronary artery disease
  • heart attacks
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • cardiovascular disease, such as pericarditis and myocarditis


Anemia occurs in 50% of people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which is the most common type of lupus.

Anemia is a blood condition that happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells in your body. These carry oxygen to the tissues and organs in your body.

People with lupus are also at risk of blood clots, which may be life-threatening. These could occur in the lungs, legs, or even the brain.

Some people with lupus also have antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS), which may increase the risk of developing blood clots and miscarriages.


Inflammation may occur in the brain and cause:

  • headaches or migraines
  • memory loss
  • poor concentration
  • seizures
  • meningitis
  • strokes
  • coma

Some people with lupus may also experience mood changes, such as irritability, depression, and anxiety.


Inflammation or fluid in the lungs, known as pleurisy, may cause sharp chest pains with deep breaths. The pain originates from the friction between the lining that covers the lung and the serousal lining of the chest cavity.

Untreated lung inflammation may lead to scarring, which could decrease the amount of oxygen that the bloodstream absorbs.


It’s estimated that 80-90% of people with lupus may experience arthritis in the small joints of the hands, wrists, and knees.

Digestive system

The inflammation from lupus might spread to the digestive system, impacting organs like the pancreas and the liver.

Lupus may also cause protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), which is when the gut leaks protein. This condition may reduce the amount of nutrients that get absorbed.


The same drugs that prevent the immune system from attacking the body may also impair its ability to fight off infections.

People with lupus are highly prone to infections and even sepsis, which is when the infection spreads through the entire body through the bloodstream.

In the past, people with lupus may have had their spleens removed (splenectomy) as a treatment for autoimmune low platelets (thrombocytopenia).

Since the spleen is a major lymphoid organ, removing it may increase your risk of infections, especially from encapsulated bacteria (pneumococcus). The pneumococcal vaccine may help against illness and infections.

It’s important for people with lupus to catch infections early, as complications may be more severe than normal.


People with lupus tend not to have trouble getting pregnant. However, the chronic condition may pose risks and cause flares.

If you’re going into labor and have antibodies like SSA (Ro) or phospholipid, you may be at risk of developing complications, such as:

  • miscarriage
  • congenital heart block
  • your child having neonatal lupus

It’s important to see high-risk pregnancy specialists to prevent complications. You may require monitoring during your pregnancy, such as with serial fetal cardiac ultrasounds.

People with lupus who also have serious complications, such as cardiovascular disease or pulmonary hypertension, may have a higher risk of dying during pregnancy.

A lupus treatment plan may include a combination of medications and lifestyle changes to help you:

  • minimize and manage your symptoms
  • prevent or minimize the impact of flares
  • reduce damage to organs
  • increase your quality of life

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes may include:

  • eating an anti-inflammatory diet
  • stopping smoking, if you smoke
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • doing regular, low-impact exercise


Medications may help you manage your condition by calming your immune system to prevent it from attacking your body’s healthy cells and organs.

They may also help reduce or prevent:

  • pain, swelling, and inflammation
  • joint damage
  • organ damage

Some types of medications that may be part of your treatment plan include:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • antimalarial drugs
  • corticosteroids
  • immunosuppressive drugs
  • biologics
  • chemotherapy
  • vaccinations, such as for the flu, pneumonia, or human papillomavirus (HPV)

A doctor may regularly address your steroid dosing to help minimize short- and long-term symptoms or complications.

How long can people with lupus live?

The majority of people could expect to live a normal lifespan with early diagnosis, careful treatment, and frequent monitoring.

However, 10-15% of people with lupus may die prematurely if they develop any complications, such as severe kidney damage.

Does lupus get worse with age?

Lupus is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 44. Early diagnosis, proper treatment, and monitoring may help you manage your symptoms over the course of a normal lifespan.

That said, when someone is diagnosed with lupus and whether they’ve developed complications may affect their lifespan.

For example, children diagnosed at a young age may be at greater risk of having severe flares or complications, such as lupus nephritis.

Similarly, adults over the age of 50 who are diagnosed with lupus may be at a higher risk of mortality and comorbidity, such as cardiovascular disease.

What are the four types of lupus?

There are four main types of lupus:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): Nearly 70% of people with lupus have SLE, which may affect several different organs in your body, such as your brain, kidneys, heart, and lungs.
  • Cutaneous lupus: This type primarily attacks your skin, and may cause rashes, lesions, or scars.
  • Neonatal lupus: This rare type of lupus affects young infants at birth. If their mother has autoimmune antibodies, these may get transmitted across the placenta.
  • Drug-induced lupus (DIL): DIL may be caused by taking certain prescription medications for a long time.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition that may cause pain, swelling, and discomfort.

Survival rates were much lower in the past. However, people with lupus can now expect to live a longer, healthier, and happier life due to the development of treatments in the past 10 years.