Fever can occur due to many reasons, but in people with lupus, fever may be one sign of a flare. Other important causes of fever in people with lupus include infection or medications. It is very important to understand the cause of the fever because the treatments for each cause are different and may be potentially harmful if missed.
Lupus increases the risk of infection in several ways. The immune system in someone with lupus is overactive, but rather than fight invaders, it attacks the tissues in the body. This distracted state may limit the immune system's ability to fight off infection from bacteria and viruses. The medications used to treat inflammation are often suppressive to the immune system, and may limit the body's ability to respond to infections.
The most common types of infections people with lupus experience are respiratory infections, such as colds, flu and pneumonia. Other common infections include skin infections (cellulitis) or urinary tract infections.
You can protect yourself by doing your best to avoid contact with anyone showing symptoms of infection. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 30 seconds. Talk to your doctor about vaccinations against the flu, pneumonia, shingles and other viruses that will reduce your risk of severe infection.
Seeing a Doctor for Fever or Infection
If you experience fever or signs of an infection, contact your primary care doctor or seek medical attention. You may be asked to provide blood work to assess for lupus activity or infection, urine tests, or imaging depending on what symptoms you are experiencing. If you take immunosuppressive medications, contact your rheumatologist to ask if you should hold your medications.