Lupus in Men: Is it different?
One doubt most people have is if lupus occurs in men. Well, lupus can develop in anyone: male or female, of any age, including children, teenagers, and adults.
Many misinformation exists about lupus, and men with the disease may discover that people are often surprised to learn that they have it because of the incorrect belief that lupus only occurs in women.
Research suggests 1 in 10 of those with lupus are male. Men develop the same typical clinical manifestations of lupus as women, yet specific key symptoms may be more pronounced in men than in women. For example, when men with lupus have kidney involvement, it tends to be more severe.
Some studies show that men with lupus commonly experience:
1 Low blood count;
2 Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) complications;
3 Unexplained fever and weight loss;
4 Antiphospholipid antibodies (which can increase the risk of blood clots);
5 Renal (kidney) disease;
6 Serositis (inflammation of the serous membrane that often causes chest pain when taking a deep breath);
7 Extreme fatigue;
8 Pain or swelling in the joints;
9 Swelling in the hands, feet, or around the eye;
Experts don’t know what causes lupus or why it affects more women than men, but it and other autoimmune diseases do run in families. Certain ethnic groups — including African American, Asian American, Hispanics/Latino, and Pacific American — are at higher risk of developing lupus than the rest of the population.
Treatment for lupus in men is nearly identical to therapy in women. Having lupus doesn’t diminish your testosterone levels, ability to perform sexually, or potential to become a father.
However, certain medications used to treat lupus, such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), can affect your testosterone levels and active sperm count, negatively impacting fertility. Therefore, it is essential to talk to your health care team early on and share your concerns about how certain medications may affect you.
Besides that, research suggests that men who have lupus experience a more severe form of the disease. Unfortunately, the scientific and research community does not have a shared and agreed-upon answer to why this appears to be the case.
And because of the false assumption by many that men do not get lupus, some men may find it harder to get a diagnosis of the disease despite presenting symptoms. In addition, some studies have found that men are often older than women at the time of diagnosis.
Diagnosing lupus is a challenge since no single test can give doctors a “yes” or “no” answer. Sometimes it can take months — or even years — to gather the correct information for a diagnosis. In addition, symptoms often change and come and go over time, making it hard to keep track of what is happening in your body. Men may have an even harder time getting a lupus diagnosis because of the false belief that only women can get the disease.
It is crucial to be your own most prominent advocate with your doctors to ensure you get the proper diagnosis and start a treatment plan. One of the best ways you can do that is to become knowledgeable of lupus symptoms and track what you’re experiencing carefully, so you can share them with your doctor.