If your symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are mild or well-controlled, you may findit barely affects your day-to-day life and you don't have any complications.

However, for some people, SLE can be a more serious conditionthat can cause life-threatening complications. Some ofthesecomplications are outlined below.

Kidney problems

Aroundone in every three people with SLEdevelops a potentially serious kidney disease called lupus nephritis, caused by prolonged inflammation of the kidneys.

Lupus nephritis tends to develop relatively early in the course of SLE, usually within five years of diagnosis.

Symptoms of lupus nephritis can include:

  • swelling of your feet ( Angioedema )
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • blood in your urine
  • a frequent need to urinate

Lupus nephritis can also cause high blood pressure (hypertension). If left untreated, it can put you at risk of developing life-threatening problems such as a heart attack or stroke .

In many cases, lupus nephritis doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. However, this doesn't mean the condition isn't dangerous, as the kidneys could still be being damaged.

If you have SLE, it's likely you'll need to have regular blood tests so the condition of your kidneys can be carefully monitored. If you develop lupus nephritis, it can usually be successfully controlled using immunosuppressants.

In a small number of cases, the kidney damage can become severe enough to require treatment with dialysis (where a machine is used toreplicate many of the kidneys' functions) or a kidney transplant .

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for any type of health condition that affects the heart and arteries. It's often associated with blood clots and atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).

Examples of CVD include:

  • coronary heart disease
  • angina (chest pain caused by the heartnot receiving enough blood)
  • heart attack
  • stroke

People with SLE are more likely to develop CVDthan the general population, because SLE can cause your heart and arteries to become inflamed and damaged.

If you have SLE, you can reduce your risk of CVD by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as:

  • stopping smoking if you smoke
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and containing at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising regularly at least150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) a week of exercise strenuous enough to leave you slightly out of breath is recommended
  • cutting down on your alcohol consumption

This is known as neonatal lupus syndrome.

If you have SLE and are thinking of having a baby, it's best to plan this carefully with your doctors if possible.

The risk of complications is higher if you become pregnant during periods where your symptoms are particularly severe. You'll usually be advised to try to avoid getting pregnant until your symptoms are better controlled.

If you do become pregnant, you'll need to be monitored closely by your specialist andby an obstetrician, so they can check for any problems.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Sep 2016