Healthcare Costs Greater for Those With Lupus Nephritis

Lupus is a chronic (long-term) autoimmune disease. The disease is most common among women between the ages of 14 and 55. These are prime career-building years.1

Many people with lupus are underemployed or unemployed. This can put a great strain on the person with lupus as well as their family. You must worry about paying for everyday expenses while dealing with a serious illness. Some of the symptoms of lupus make it difficult to work, such as:1,2

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Joint pain

The cost of healthcare can be a huge burden. People with lupus need frequent doctor's visits and hospital stays. They need to pay for drugs to treat their illness.3

There is also the cost of health insurance. Private health insurance requires you to pay premiums. Premiums can be high, depending on your income or work situation.3

The financial situation is even worse for people with lupus nephritis.2

What is lupus nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is a serious kidney complication of lupus. Lupus nephritis happens when the immune system attacks the kidneys by mistake. This attack causes inflammation and – over time – kidney damage.4

Symptoms of lupus nephritis include high blood pressure and swelling of the hands, legs, and feet. If left untreated, lupus nephritis can cause kidney failure.2,4

Between one-third and one-half of people with lupus also have lupus nephritis. And up to 28 percent of people with lupus nephritis will develop what is called end-stage kidney disease or ESKD. When a person has ESKD, their kidneys don't work properly.2

People with ESKD will need a transplant or dialysis. Dialysis uses a machine to filter fluid and waste from the blood. Dialysis is needed when the kidneys can no longer function on their own.5

People with lupus nephritis use healthcare services more often

A 2021 report compared people with lupus nephritis to people with lupus and no kidney inflammation. The researchers found that people with lupus nephritis:2

  • Had higher healthcare costs
  • Required more doctor's visits
  • Visited the emergency room more often
  • Had to stay in the hospital longer
  • Required more medicines
  • Missed more days of work

Costs for people with ESKD were even higher. Their healthcare costs could be 17 times as high as the costs for people whose kidneys worked well.2

The high cost of lupus flares

According to a 2022 study, the cost of lupus flares was higher for people with lupus nephritis. A flare is a worsening of lupus symptoms. People with lupus nephritis had more severe flares than people without this complication.6

The cost of lupus flares went up depending on their severity. People with lupus nephritis had flares more often, increasing costs. Overall costs per flare were more than twice as much for people with lupus nephritis.6

Financial pressures can be stressful. And prolonged stress can:7,8

  • Cause depression and headaches
  • Give you heart disease
  • Weaken your immune system

Where to go for financial help

There are places to look for financial relief. At Benefits.gov you can find out if you are eligible for government benefits. Drug companies have patient assistance programs. Organizations like the Patient Action Network Foundation, NeedyMeds, and Good Days help with the cost of drugs. They can also help cover other healthcare expenses.8,9

There are also organizations that help with:8,10

  • Heating and housing costs
  • Travel costs if you have to travel long distances for medical care
  • A place to stay when you are getting care
  • The costs of having a family member travel with you for your care

Navigating the financial challenges that come with a lupus diagnosis is hard. But there is help available so you can focus on getting the best care for your illness.

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