Lupus and other rheumatic diseases can cause neurological symptoms such as headaches and seizures, which can delay a correct diagnosis for months, a new report says.
Treatments for rheumatic diseases can also cause these types of symptoms, according to neurologists at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. Rheumatic disorders include autoimmune and inflammatory diseases of the joints and soft tissues, such as lupus, systemic vasculitis and ankylosing spondylitis.
"Rheumatic disorders presenting as neurological syndromes may pose diagnostic challenges," study senior author Dr. Sean Ruland, an associate professor in the neurology department, and colleagues said in a medical center news release.
The researchers noted that more than half of lupus patients suffer headaches, and one-third have migraines. Up to 20 percent have seizures, one-third have reduced thinking abilities, and one in five may experience a mood disorder. Some lupus patients also develop symptoms such as paranoia and hearing voices, symptoms that can be confused with schizophrenia.
In addition, lupus can cause heart problems that lead to stroke, according to the paper that was published recently in the journal Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports.
Presently, there is no one test to diagnose lupus, and it may take months or years to make the diagnosis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
People with systemic vasculitis (an inflammation of the blood vessels) can develop headaches, seizures, stroke-like symptoms and vision problems. One-third will have long-term neurological problems and require long-term treatment to suppress their immune systems.
Headaches, brain dysfunction, thinking problems and seizures can occur in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, which is a type of arthritis that affects the spine, the researchers noted.
Doctors need to be familiar with the neurological symptoms that can be caused by rheumatic diseases and their treatments, the researchers concluded.