Treating Lupus with Weight Loss Surgery

Lupus, Obesity & Weight Loss Surgery

Systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system attacks your own organs and tissues, including the joints, skin, kidneys, brain, blood cells, lungs, and heart. This results in inflammation and other more severe effects. Those who suffer from lupus experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose (and elsewhere on the body)
  • Decreased circulation in extremities during exposure to cold or stress
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Skin lesions
  • Headaches
  • Confusion and/or memory loss

There is no cure for lupus. Its symptoms are controlled with medications including NSAIDS and steroids.

The Relationship between Lupus and Obesity

Those who have lupus have a higher tendency toward obesity. Thirty percent of women with SLE have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.  People with SLE tend to experience the adverse health conditions associated with obesity (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure) at lower BMI levels. In fact, numerous studies show that those with SLE are at increased risk for metabolic syndrome (MetS). A patient is said to have MetS when they have multiple metabolic disorders such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, etc. Those with MetS have a greatly increased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, atherosclerosis and other diseases of the arteries.

Comorbid Conditions

Both lupus and obesity are risk factors for heart disease, and the fact that lupus also leads toward a higher occurrence of MetS compounds this risk. When all are taken together, the odds of cardiovascular disease are significantly higher than in cases where there is only one or another. With the increased amount of inflammation from these conditions, the odds of developing type II diabetes are higher as well. Treating lupus and obesity can both reduce those risks and getting one under control will make dealing with the other a bit easier.

Effect of Weight Loss Surgery on SLE patients

Studies have shown that lupus patients who lose weight have an easier time coping with the disease. Losing excess weight will also diminish the other risk factors associated with both obesity and SLE. But weight loss can be challenging, particularly when the pain and inflammation of SLE tend can make moving painful.

There are some indications that weight loss surgery may be a viable option for obese lupus patients who have not had success with medically supervised weight loss programs. That said, it’s important to consult with a bariatric surgeon to determine if surgery is an option for you. If you are overweight and suffer from lupus, contact Dr. Malladi to see if weight loss surgery is right for you.