Fever is a common symptom experienced in over 50% of people with active Lupus. However, active lupus disease or flare is not the only cause of fever in Lupus. Other causes can be infection, drug-related or cancer.
Medications, such as steroids and immunosuppressive agents, can reduce the body’s resistance to infection. With active lupus or a flare, fever is often accompanied by other symptoms of lupus. It responds to Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Lupus increases the risk of infection, which can be another cause of fever. Two main causes of infections are lupus’ effect on the immune system, and the use of immunosuppressive agents like steroids (in moderate to high doses), biologics, and certain medications. Mycophenolate and Methotrexate medications can leave you prone to infectious agents by causing low white blood cell counts and infection fighting cells.
Infections involving the respiratory system, urinary system and skin are more common in people with lupus. It is important to wash your hands often and stay away from people with infection, cold or the flu. Check with your doctor if you have symptoms, such as fever, chills, flu-like signs, painful sore throat, ear or sinus pain, mouth sores, cough, excess phlegm or a change in phlegm color, pain when urinating, or a wound that does not heal. Before having any dental work or surgery, talk to your dentist and surgeon about preventive antibiotics.
There is an increased risk for cancers that affect blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, particularly lymphoma. Along with fever, lymphoma can present itself with unusual bleeding, bruising, weakness, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms or groin, raised bumps on the skin with pus, or red, scaly patches. Lupus is also a risk factor for cervical cancer, which could be yet another cause of fever.
The Bottom Line
Immediately contact your doctor anytime you have a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or higher. The doctor will need to address your fever and rule out infectious causes.