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February 12, 2009 at 4:21 PMComments: 6 Faves: 0

Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis: What's the Connection?

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune disease characterized by global (systemic) damage caused by the body's own immune system attacking it. The joints, liver, kidney, heart, and brain are worst affected by this disease, but the entire body pays a price.

Lupus is most easily recognized by the characteristic "butterfly rash" that spreads across the cheeks and nose. However, not everyone who has lupus exhibits this particular symptom. Joint pain and swelling, inflammation, fatigue, kidney problems, and photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun) are other common symptoms .

We haven't determined why people get lupus, but the evidence indicates that a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental trigger interact to cause the disease. Women are nine times more likely to develop the disease than men. Most patients are between the ages of twenty and forty at the onset of the disease, although both children and the elderly can, on rare occasions, also get lupus. A diagnosis of lupus was once tantamount to a death sentence. However, advances in treatment methods have made it possible for many people with lupus to live relatively normal lives. With proper treatment, symptoms can usually be managed and the organs protected from severe damage.

Multiple Sclerosis

Like lupus, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), is an autoimmune disease. However, in lupus, the damage is more general. MS is a condition which specifically targets the olygodendrocytes. The olygodendrocytes are cells found throughout the nervous system that make and maintain the myelin sheath. Myelin is a fatty layer found on the outside of neurons that acts as a kind of insulation, allowing them to function properly. MS causes this protective sheath to be stripped away. As a result, the symptoms of MS are all neurological, and differ depending on the location of the damage.

Common symptoms of MS include impaired coordination, loss of muscular control, fatigue, inflammation, headaches, problems with sensory input (the signals from the various sensory organs do not reach the brain), and various psychological and cognitive problems, including depression and memory loss. Like lupus, MS is more prevalent in young women. It appears to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental effects. It is chronic and, like lupus, includes periods of remission. During these periods, myelin is built up again, and symptoms subside. However, the continuous process of demylenation and remylenation causes scarring to build up, and gradually, symptoms become increasingly severe.


Lupus and MS are both autoimmune diseases. They both have an onset in early adulthood. Both affect women more often than men, although the ratio is not quite as steeply skewed in the case of MS. It is theorized that in both lupus and MS, genetic vulnerability is paired with environmental trauma to bring about the condition. They are both chronic conditions, requiring life-long treatment. Both are characterized by a pattern of sickness interspersed with remission. Lupus and MS have many symptoms in common. Both are characterized by extreme fatigue, inflammation, headaches, and muscle stiffness. Both can result in changes in thinking and feeling such as disordered thinking, poor memory, and depression.

How to Know Which You Have

Because of the many symptoms in common, many people with both lupus and MS are initially misdiagnosed. Seeing a specialist is crucial in finding the right diagnosis. For MS, an MRI can be used to find plaques in the brain and spinal cord. For lupus, an antinuclear antibody test (ANA) can often be a good diagnostic tool. Unfortunately, neither of these tests are conclusive, and an accurate symptom history is usually the best way to arrive at the correct diagnosis.


In both lupus and MS, the goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms and try to limit organ damage. This is accomplished in different ways, however. With MS, interferons, immunosuppressants, and immunomodulators are most common. These drugs help regulate the activity of the immune system. When treating lupus, the most common medications are corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antimalarials. They are all effective, to some degree, in managing the condition. Unfortunately, adverse side-effects are common and build-up over time. Starting a healthy diet has been shown to improve condition in lupus sufferers.


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  • I have had Lupus since I was 16! Now I also have MS they think around 10 years ago I had a bad infection and thats when I started showing signs of ms. You can have both make sure they do a spinal tap to make sure my doctor told me that was the only way with someone with Lupus to no if it was ms to. now they say I have shyrogen to havent checked on that one to much dont think i want to no I push my body so much thinking this is the last day I might be ok!! They told me I wouldnt walk more then another year but i walk and cry but keep moving!! I will not let this take me down!!! The pain gets better has the day gos on until i sit down good luck i really hope for you that you dont have it but if you do DONT GIVE UP!!!!

  • I was diagnosed with MS June 2014 then diagnosed with lupus August of 2014. I'm taking shots for my MS 3 times a week but nothing right now for the lupus but I'm on a diet for those and my diabetes. I'm tired all the time have the foggy head and can't be in the heat. I really don't have a life. I can't work and I sleep most of the day. I try to keep going but is so hard with no energy. I'm about to give up don't know what else to do.

  • I was told that I have lupus AGAIN in 1993 and then ms in 1995. I don't really believe these and I don't follow any traditional procotols as they would be DEADLY FOR ME. I have Environmental Illness which is mostly NOT recognized. Hey! AMA wake up! If you have these diagnosis avoid toxic chemicals like formaldehyde in your clothing, etc! The list of toxic chemicals in the environment today is endless and getting worse.

  • Toluene and other solvents destroy the myelin nerve covering and also damage the blood brain barrier. Modern fragrance from cologne to cleaners to candles are heavily contaminated with toluene and other solvents. Also BHT(toluene) in food Do some research and get this chemical out of your life.

  • I have both conditions also. Found to have Lupus first after finding Hasimotos disease then 10 years later came the MS diagnosis. I have had my Lupus doctor for 25 years. My MS doctor just retired and I am having a terrible time finding a doctor to treat the MS since I have the Lupus. I also have terrible fatigue. More days I am in bed than out. I am depressed life has no meaning any longer. I need help finding the right MS doctor in the Baltimore/Frederick MD area. The last MS doctor I saw at Hopkins said MS patients have no pain and the fatigue is on their mind.

  • Because of the many symptoms in common, many people with both lupus and MS are initially misdiagnosed.

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