LRI Scientific Advisor Responds to Study Showing Higher Risk for Hip Fractures Among Women with Lupus

HealthDay reported that a six-year study published in Arthritis Care & Research suggests that women with lupus may be at higher risk of a hip fracture. Dr. Shu-Hung Wang, of the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan evaluated nearly 15,000 adults with lupus, -- 90 percent of them women.

LRI Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. David Pisetsky was interviewed for the HealthDay article to provide an unbiased perspective on the significance of the study results. “The number of people studied lends strength to the findings.”

“The higher risk of hip fracture is not surprising, due to the nature of the disease,” he said. “Lupus involves a malfunction of the immune system. Normally, the immune system makes antibodies in response to invaders; in lupus, the body can't differentiate invaders from normal tissue, so it makes autoantibodies that turn on the body, attacking normal tissue.”

"The systemic inflammation affects bone," Pisetsky said. “Patients often are prescribed steroid medicine to relieve the inflammation, but the medicines can also affect bones adversely,” he said. Although the risk to bones in lupus patients is known, the new study teases out details on the type of fracture risk, Pisetsky said.

For those reasons, experts in recent years have been focusing on using the lowest dose possible of steroids to control symptoms, Pisetsky said. To help preserve bone health, Pisetsky tells his lupus patients to get enough calcium and vitamin D and to take bone-maintenance drugs, if their doctor decides they are necessary. Getting regular exercise can help too, he said. With age, lupus patients should try to preserve their balance, which also can reduce the risk of falls.