Lupus May Be the Cause for Preeclampsia

Recent research on the effects of lupus has revealed that having the autoimmune disease lupus while you are pregnant could double your risk of preeclampsia.

The study was published in the recent issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research. The study was conducted by Dr. Kristin Palmsten at the Harvard School of Public Health.


The Study

Preeclampsia is a serious condition that affects some pregnant women. It is characterized by complications due to high blood pressure such as stroke, seizure and multi-organ failure. This could be very fatal to the mother, baby or both.

Researchers at Harvard also found that using DMARDS – a class of drugs called Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of preeclampsia. These drugs are prescribed for treating Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

Some of the most common anti rheumatic drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases are:  methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine etanercept and adalimumab. They are used to treat the disease and not just its symptoms. Hence they are used only when the patient is not responding to any other kind of treatment.

The study was done on 225,000 women from British Columbia, Canada. Some of them were past users of DMARDs and NSAIDs while some were continuous users of these drugs. They were classified accordingly. The median age of the pregnant women in this study was found to be 30 years. Among the participants in the study, 1226 were found to be past users and 414 were continuous users.

The relative risk of preeclampsia in past users was about 2.02%, while that of continuous users was 2.29%. This is a statistically insignificant, but leads to the conclusion that those women who are continuous users were at double risk of developing preeclampsia than the past users of DMARDs.


The number of people suffering from lupus and the relation of the disease with preeclampsia was slightly significant, but the use of DMARDs only increased the risk by a marginal number. This proves that though lupus and preeclampsia are related conditions, the cause and effect relationship is yet to be established.


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