Lupus symptoms in men: How do men get lupus?

lupus symptoms in men
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman

Overview

The symptoms of lupus in men can vary in different individuals, often leading to overlooked signs. Men with lupus may experience severe kidney involvement, leading to pronounced symptoms like persistent pain and swelling, particularly in the joints. It’s crucial to address these symptoms to prevent further complications. Treatment options include a combination of medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants, along with over-the-counter remedies to manage pain and discomfort. However, consulting a healthcare professional for personalized treatment and monitoring is essential, especially in severe symptoms. Taking proactive steps towards diagnosis and treatment will help you to take control of your health and improve your quality of life. 

What are the symptoms of lupus in a man?

The signs of lupus in men are similar to those in women, but there are some key differences to be aware of. 

  • Men with lupus may experience fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes (especially on the cheeks and nose), fever, and flu-like symptoms.
  • They may be more prone to severe symptoms such as anemia, blood clots, organ damage, and seizures. Both men and women with lupus commonly experience “flares,” where symptoms worsen temporarily before improving.
  • Common signs of lupus in men include a butterfly-shaped rash on the face, discoloration and numbness in fingers or toes when exposed to cold or stress, chest pain with deep breaths, extreme fatigue, hair loss, joint pain, mouth or nose sores, sensitivity to light, and swelling around the eyes or in the hands, feet, or joints. 
  • Lupus can also affect multiple organs in men, leading to complications such as cardiovascular issues, kidney problems (including lupus nephritis), inflammation of blood vessels, and inflammation of lung tissue.
  • Men with lupus may commonly exhibit low blood count, cardiovascular complications, unexplained fever, and weight loss, antiphospholipid antibodies (increasing the risk of blood clots), renal disease, and serositis (inflammation of the serous membrane causing chest pain). 

Treatment for lupus in men is similar to that in women, although some medications, like cyclophosphamide, may affect sperm counts. Therefore, before starting treatment, you must discuss potential medication side effects with your doctors.

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What causes lupus in men?

Lupus, an autoimmune disease, occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It’s believed to result from genetic predisposition and environmental triggers.

Environmental Triggers

Following are the environmental triggers that cause lupus flares in men:

  • Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight is known to be a potential trigger for lupus. It can lead to the development of skin lesions or trigger internal responses, particularly in susceptible individuals.
  • Infections: Certain infections have been linked to initiating lupus or exacerbating symptoms in individuals predisposed to the disease.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as certain blood pressure medications, anti-seizure drugs, and antibiotics, have been associated with triggering lupus. While symptoms usually improve upon discontinuing the medication, in rare cases, they may persist even after cessation.

Genetic Factors

Sometimes, genetics may also contribute to signs of lupus in males as: 

  • People with an inherited predisposition for lupus may be more likely to develop the disease when exposed to these environmental triggers.
  • The precise interplay between genetics and environment in the development of lupus remains an area of ongoing research. 

Understanding these triggers and risk factors can aid in managing and preventing lupus in men and women alike.

What are the four types of lupus in men?

Lupus occurs in different forms, with its characteristics and implications for treatment and prognosis. Understanding these various types is crucial for accurate diagnosis and management.

  1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most prevalent form of lupus, often referred to simply as “lupus.” It can vary widely in severity, ranging from mild to severe. SLE can affect multiple organs and systems in the body, leading to diverse symptoms.

  1. Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE)

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus primarily affects the skin and is characterized by various rashes and lesions. CLE has three main subtypes:

  • Discoid lupus which causes circular skin lesions.
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus presents with scaly patches and red skin lesions, often on sun-exposed areas.
  • Acute cutaneous lupus typically manifests as a rash on the face, often resembling a sunburn.

  1. Drug-Induced Lupus Erythematosus

Drug-induced lupus erythematosus is a lupus-like condition triggered by certain prescription medications. While it shares some symptoms with SLE, drug-induced lupus typically resolves once the offending medication is discontinued.

  1. Neonatal Lupus

Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that affects infants born to mothers with lupus.It is not a true form of lupus but rather a condition caused by antibodies from the mother acting upon the infant in the womb.

Neonatal lupus can lead to various complications in newborns, including skin rashes, liver problems, and heart abnormalities.

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How is lupus treated in men?

Living with lupus can be challenging, but there are various treatment approaches available to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Medications

Medications are crucial in managing lupus symptoms and preventing flare-ups. Common medications used for lupus include BLyS-specific inhibitors, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as:

  • Hydroxychloroquine and other disease-modifying antirheumatic agents (DMARDs) control inflammation and regulate the immune system.
  • Biologics like Benlysta and Saphnelo target specific cells related to lupus.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Lifestyle modifications are essential for managing lupus effectively.
  • Stress management techniques and regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being.
  • Supportive therapies are valuable for addressing both the physical and mental health aspects of lupus.
  • Physical and occupational therapy can aid in managing pain and improving functionality.
  • Counseling or therapy sessions can help individuals cope with the emotional challenges of living with a chronic illness.

While there is no cure for lupus, treatment options aim to minimize symptoms and improve quality of life. It’s important to discuss any concerns about fertility or sexual function with healthcare providers, as some medications used to treat lupus may affect sperm count and fertility.

By combining medications, lifestyle changes, and supportive therapies, men with lupus can effectively manage their condition and lead fulfilling lives. Open communication with healthcare providers is essential for developing a personalized treatment plan that addresses individual needs and concerns.

What should a person with lupus avoid?

What should a person with lupus avoid?

If you have lupus or a condition predisposing you to lupus, it’s essential to be mindful of certain foods and medications that can trigger symptoms or flares.

  1. Sunlight

Sunlight can induce rashes and flares in people with lupus, so minimizing exposure is crucial.

Use sunscreen with SPF 70 or higher, containing ingredients like Helioplex to block harmful UV rays.

Wear protective clothing and hats when outdoors, especially during peak sun hours.

  1. Bactrim and Septra (sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim)

These antibiotics, commonly used for bacterial infections, can increase sun sensitivity and trigger lupus flares. People with lupus should avoid these medications and discuss alternative options with their healthcare provider.

  1. Garlic

Compounds in garlic enhance immune function, which can exacerbate the overactivity of the immune system in lupus. Avoid cooking with garlic or consuming foods containing garlic to minimize immune stimulation.

  1. Alfalfa Sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts contain L-canavanine, an amino acid that can increase inflammation and stimulate the immune system in people with lupus. Avoiding alfalfa sprouts is recommended for individuals with lupus or similar autoimmune conditions.

  1. Echinacea

Echinacea is often a dietary supplement to boost the immune system but may trigger flares in autoimmune diseases like lupus. People with lupus should avoid Echinacea supplements and consult with their physician before starting any new medications or supplements.

Individuals with lupus need to be cautious about their diet and medication choices to minimize symptoms and maintain overall health. Open communication with healthcare providers is crucial for making informed decisions about treatment and managing lupus effectively.

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Consult a doctor

If you’ve been experiencing joint pain and extreme fatigue persistently for more than a few weeks, or if you’ve noticed unusual hair loss or a rash on your face, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. This is especially crucial if you have any risk factors for autoimmune diseases. Consulting a doctor early can lead to timely diagnosis and appropriate management of your symptoms. Early intervention is key to managing autoimmune conditions effectively and improving overall health outcomes.

FAQs

At what age do men get lupus?

Lupus can develop in men at any age, but the mean age of onset is around 40 years old. This age is typically ten years later than the age of onset for women. It’s important to note that lupus diagnosis can sometimes be delayed, particularly in women, meaning that men may receive a diagnosis more quickly once they present with symptoms.

How serious is lupus in men?

Lupus can be a serious condition for men if left untreated. Lupus can lead to significant complications without proper management, including damage to internal organs and tissues. In men, lupus may also increase the risk of stroke or heart attack. 

Are men with lupus infertile?

Lupus nephritis, a complication of lupus affecting the kidneys, can pose challenges for men. It may lead to issues such as erectile dysfunction and reduced production of sperm, which can impact fertility. Additionally, hormonal imbalances resulting from treatments like hemodialysis, which may be necessary in cases of severe kidney involvement, can contribute to infertility in men, similar to the effects seen in women.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Font, Josep, Ricard Cervera, Margarita Navarro, Lucio Pallares, Alfons Lopez-Soto, Josep Vivancos, and Miguel Ingelmo. “Systemic lupus erythematosus in men: clinical and immunological characteristics.” Annals of the rheumatic diseases 51, no. 9 (1992): 1050-1052.
  • Aggarwal, Rachna, Bahram Namjou, Shibo Li, A. N. I. L. D’SOUZA, Betty P. Tsao, Benjamin F. Bruner, Judith A. James, and R. Hal Scofield. “Male-only systemic lupus.” The Journal of rheumatology 37, no. 7 (2010): 1480-1487.
  • Aranow, Cynthia, Jose Del Guidice, Peter Barland, and Arthur Weinstein. “Systemic lupus erythematosus disease severity in men and women: a case-control study.” The Journal of rheumatology 29, no. 8 (2002): 1674-1677.

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