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Pregnant Women With Lupus Are At Greater Risk

Researchers from Duke Medical Center have found that pregnant women with systemic lupus are at higher risk for death and other medical complications compared to normal// pregnant women.

The study, believed to be largest of its kind, was conducted nationwide covering more than 18 million women. The study suggested that pregnant women with systemic lupus should be considered a high-risk population and should be monitored closely by both a rheumatologist and an obstetrician who specializes in caring for high-risk patients.

"Pregnant women with lupus should never try to go through their pregnancy alone and simply hope for the best," said study leader Megan Clowse, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the Division of Rheumatology. "They should stay in close contact with their doctors and report any problems immediately."

Clowse presented the findings on Sunday, Nov. 12, at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, in Washington, D.C. The National Institutes of Health’s Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health program funded the study.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system loses its ability to distinguish between "self" and foreign substances and thus relentlessly attacks the body's own tissues and cells. Individuals with lupus often exhibit many different symptoms, including arthritis, kidney disease, rashes, fevers, anemia and sensitivity to light, among other problems.

Approximately 1.5 million Americans -- roughly 90 percent of them women -- have some type of lupus. Most patients are diagnosed during their reproductive years. Seventy percent of patients have systemic lupus, the most severe form of the disease.

All women with systemic lupus, pregnant or not, are at increased risk for death and medical complications compared to a healthy population, Clowse said. Other studies report that each year, between 0.8 percent and 3 percent of lupus patients die
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