Lupus & Seizures
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2020 | Last updated: April 2023
Seizures are one of the most serious neurological symptoms of lupus. Seizures are thought to occur because the inflammation and antibodies created by lupus aggravate the central nervous system and brain.
The number of people with lupus who experience seizures varies widely, with international studies reporting anywhere between 6.2 percent and 58 percent.1
A hospital study in Mexico followed 129 lupus patients treated for 7 years and found that 7.5 percent developed seizures associated with their lupus. Almost all those followed were women in their 20s to 40s who had been diagnosed with lupus between 3 and 17 years and had no other disease likely to cause seizures.1
Grand mal, or tonic-clonic, seizures are the most common type of seizure experienced by those with lupus. Seizures may be partial (localized to one part of the brain) or generalized (involving the whole brain).
Lupus seizures causes
Doctors do not fully understand what causes seizures in people with lupus. It seems that some seizures are due to injury, infection, or high nitrogen levels in the blood, while a few people may have epilepsy along with lupus. Research seems to indicate that strokes increase the risk of seizures in people with lupus.3
If you have a seizure, your doctor will probably refer you to a neurologist, a specialist who treats conditions of the nervous system. The neurologist may order some or all of these tests to try and understand what caused your seizure:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Electroencephalograms (EEG)
- Spinal tap (to examine fluid in the spinal column)
Your doctor may also use behavioral and cognitive tests to find out if your memory or other mental abilities have been impacted by the seizure.
Seizures treatment for people with lupus
Many treatments can help prevent another seizure in the future. What you are prescribed will depend on the underlying issue your doctors believe contributed to your seizure. Treatments may include:
- NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or naproxen)
- Anti-epileptics (anti-seizure) medications
You may recover quickly from a seizure and have no apparent long-term effects, or it may take several months of gradual improvement. Most people with lupus who have a seizure experience no long-term change to their quality of life.4