Research Sheds Light on the Seriousness of Involuntary, Illness-Related Weight Loss in Lupus
New research shows cachexia – involuntary weight loss and muscle wasting due to illness – is an important, but underrecognized, syndrome in people with lupus. Of the 2,406 people with lupus assessed, more than half (56%) developed cachexia within five years of entering the study. Although most people regained their weight over time, this “intermittent cachexia” was associated with significantly higher risk for future organ damage compared to those with persistent cachexia or no cachexia.
The researchers found people with the following risk factors were more likely to develop cachexia:
- Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 20
- Current steroid use
- Vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation)
- Lupus nephritis (lupus-related kidney disease)
- Serositis (inflammation of thin layers of organ tissues known as serous membranes)
- Lupus-related blood disorders
- Positive anti-dsDNA, anti-Sm, or anti-RNP (antinuclear antibodies)
People with intermittent cachexia were more likely to develop a wide range of health problems, including, but not limited to, cataracts and eye problems, cognitive impairment, strokes, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular disorders, and diseases affecting the bones and joints.
People with continuous cachexia were more likely to develop serious kidney complications, including end stage renal disease. Meanwhile, people who never developed cachexia were less likely to develop cancer, diabetes, and certain types of cardiovascular diseases.
This is a significant study, as cachexia has been well researched in many other inflammatory diseases, but little is known about the syndrome in people with lupus. Cachexia is different than starvation or malnutrition, in that it is not easily reversed by nutrition support or supplementation. Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian to learn more about maintaining strength and a healthy body weight. Learn more about lupus.