While headaches are common in people with lupus, a new Canadian study finds they are not linked to disease activity.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage skin, joints and organs. Researchers reviewed records of more than 1,700 people with the disease, looking at the headaches they experienced over a period of years. The study found that 18% of the patients had headaches at the time of diagnosis, however the proportion increased to 58% after 10 years.

Previous studies have suggested that up to 38% of neurological and psychiatric occurrences in lupus patients are a result of the disease. However, the link between headache disorders and lupus has been debatable, with earlier research reporting rates that range from 24% to 72%. Dr. John Hanly, of Dalhousie University and the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and lead author said, “there is conflicting evidence that links headache, including migraine, and lupus disease activity. Much of the discrepancy in previous studies may be due to the lack of uniform definition of headache, which is a common occurrence in the general population, especially among women.”

The researchers found no connection between headache and specific lupus autoantibodies or lupus medications including steroids, antimalarials, and immunosuppressives. “While lupus patients with headaches reported lower quality of life, the majority of cases resolved on their own without lupus-specific therapies,” said Hanly.

Dr. Michael Lockshin, of Weill Cornell Medical College and Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, said the findings “strongly suggest that lupus headache is not a sign of disease activity, but may be linked to other neurological manifestations.” He added that the current headache criterion in guidelines used to evaluate lupus flares is no longer useful, and should be dropped…….  Medical News Today     10/28/10    HealthDay    10/28/10



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