Study: Female lupus patients may be at high risk for hip fractures

July 8, 2013

Topic: orthopaedic fracture

Spending a lot of time in front of a screen is not doing any favors for adolescents' bone health.

Women diagnosed with lupus can experience a large variety of symptoms that range in severity, some of which affect the joints and can lead to orthopaedic fractures.  A new study recently published online in the journal Arthritis Care & Research revealed that females with the autoimmune condition are at an especially high risk for suffering a hip fracture. 

Taiwanese researchers followed around 15,000 adults who had lupus for six years. Ninety percent of the subjects were women. The investigators discovered that throughout the duration of the study, 75 of them suffered a hip fracture, 57 of which were cervical hip fractures while the remaining 18 were trochanteric breaks of the hip. 

The individuals were compared to a control group of healthy people. Among those without lupus, only 43 suffered from hip fractures.  

This study's findings are beneficial for the orthopaedics industry as it used a large population. This could help professionals work with patients diagnosed with lupus to prevent the likelihood of their experiencing such an injury. 

Managing lupus
Although this orthopaedic research sheds light on this population of people and how they may have an increased risk of hip fractures, it is not surprising to scientists or clinicians. This is because lupus patients have an immune system that essentially attacks itself and causes various subsequent problems. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lupus can damage any organ system of the body. Because there is such a large range of symptoms, it can often be difficult to diagnose. For most patients, the condition tends to be mild, but doctors should still monitor and treat it constantly to prevent subsequent problems. 

About 70 percent of lupus cases are categorized as systemic lupus erythematosus. The HHS states that common symptoms include fatigue, sensitivity to the sun, hair loss, painful and swollen joints, skin rashes, fever and kidney problems. 

In addition to the condition's effects on the body, treatment, which often involves steroids, can impact the skeletal system. 

"Steroids are also associated with increased risk for osteonecrosis [death of the bones], which literally can cause the hip joint and other joints to collapse," explained Joan Merrill, M.D., medical director of the Lupus Foundation of America, quoted by HealthDay. 

Some healthcare providers recommend that lupus patients consume an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D on a daily basis to preserve bone health. 

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