Poverty and race are tied to the health of lupus patients in the United States, according to two new studies.
One study of 783 patients linked poverty to an increased risk of organ damage from the autoimmune disease. It was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.
“Persistent poverty and being poor in an area of concentrated poverty seem to worsen the amount of disease damage over time, while exiting poverty may alleviate it,” study author Edward Yelin said in a journal news release. Yelin is a retired adjunct professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
“We have also shown that chronic stress associated with poverty may play an important role in why the poor experience more damage. Such stresses may include having to deal with food, housing and medical care insecurity,” he explained.
In lupus, the immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs in the body. This results in damage to the joints, kidneys, skin and heart. Lupus is more common among women and blacks, according to the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
A second study of 408 women with lupus found adverse pregnancy outcomes were about twice as common among black and Hispanic women than white women.
Among black women, factors such as education and income were strongly tied to outcomes such as fetal death, preterm delivery and fetal growth restriction, in which an unborn baby fails to grow at a normal rate.
The study was published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
Study leader Dr. Jane Salmon said more research is needed to understand these differences, as well as how and when to take action to prevent them.
“At present, we must be vigilant in educating and monitoring pregnant patients at increased risk of complications,” she said in a journal news release. Salmon is a research professor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
Both studies only found associations between lupus damage and factors such as race and poverty. The research did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
May is Lupus Awareness Month. The studies were published May 8.