Lung involvement... well yes I've had "lung involvement" before, I have had pleurisy and those familiar pains that kind of take your breath away, figuratively and literally. But this last bout of pleurisy was a bit different to me, a little scarier, a little more targeted around my heart. I did exactly what you are not supposed to do when something doesn't feel right, I ignored it. But after a while it just hurt too much so I finally made the decision to call my rheumatologist.
When I spoke to the nurse, I told him about my symptoms and the shooting pains through my heart and aches in my arms and shoulder. I did make it a point to let him know that both sides were bothering me because I know that it can make a difference in these things. I figured if I mentioned that it was both sides, which it was, it would ease my mind and I would get the "don't worry, everything is ok, come in tomorrow" confirmation. Instead, after a long wait on hold, I was told to go to my nearest ER and let them know I have lupus that we need to rule out angina, heart attack, and/or clots. I don't know about you but when someone tells you do drop everything and get to the ER, you pretty much feel like you're about to have a heart attack right there. So now there I am with chest pains and high blood pressure YIKES.
My visit was the typical visit in the ER. When you have chest pains, you are pretty much a rush to the back but then it was test after test. Blood, EKG, Xray, CT scans all to make sure I didn't have anything that was going to take me out right then and there. I mean I woke up that morning with common symptoms of pleurisy and now I'm facing my mortality. It was all so surreal.
It turns out I didn't have any of those issues, I was diagnosed in the hospital with pleurisy complicated by Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Yes, 5 hours of testing and hundreds of dollars of medical costs later and I felt ridiculous until my mother-in-law said "I'm so happy that we know you don't have any life threatening issues." Yes, yes I was too. I also now realize after that ordeal that there are lots of serious issues that I never really think about. I always think about the most common serious problem with lupus and that is the kidneys but never thought about the lungs past a pleurisy issue. After my ordeal, I decided to do research into lung involvement in lupus and was amazed to the complications that can be as a direct cause of lupus which I will list below:
1. Pleurisy (or Pleuritis) - Inflammation of the Lung Lining
2. Acute Lupus Pneumonitis - Lung Inflammation
3. Pulmonary Hemorrage - Bleeding into the Lungs
4. Interstitial Lung Disease
5. Pulmonary Embolism - Clots in the Lungs
6. Pulmonary Hypertension - High Blood Pressure in the Lungs
7. Shrinking Lung Syndrome
It just so happens that Lupus Now (the seasonal publication from the Lupus Foundation of America) did an article for the Spring 2012 edition: Breathless: Understanding the connection between lupus and the lungs
I'm happy to say that I am getting better after fighting this pleurisy for almost a couple of weeks. I am scheduled to do the Walk for Lupus Now on this Sunday and I've been really excited to walk for it so I'm taking it really easy this week so I can do it.
I hope you are all doing well :)