Lupus and Overheating

Has lupus taken away your ability to tolerate heat or caused hot flashes or excessive sweating?  Overheating is one of the most common symptoms that come with SLE.  Read on to find out how lupus can cause heat intolerance and what you can do to keep cool!

Introduction to Lupus and Overheating

Heat intolerance and overheating are common complaints for those living with lupus.  Even when the weather is cool and physical activity is low, SLE can cause a number of body temperature related effects – from unusual sweating to low-grade fevers.  Yet, these symptoms may not be caused by lupus itself.  There may other autoimmune conditions or undiagnosed health and metabolic disorders like thyroid disease, diabetes or even an infection that may be to blame.  So, while a fan or cool towel can bring temporary relief, heat intolerance should never be ignored – it may be the body’s way of trying to say there is something wrong.

What causes overheating in lupus?

There are several possible reasons for those with lupus to become heat intolerant. Studies have shown that those with autoimmune diseases have high levels of free radical nitric oxide (NO).  Nitric oxide is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body for quickly dilating blood vessels when necessary.  This is how nitroglycerin tablets provide relief for those with angina.

Abnormally high levels of nitric oxide in those with lupus, or other autoimmune conditions, can make the skin’s blood vessels dilate, bringing more body heat to the surface – causing warmth, skin reddening and sweat.  It has also been found that nitric oxide levels peak during high disease activity, flares, and with lupus nephritis.  Heat intolerance and high levels of nitric oxide can also be symptoms of fibromyalgia, a common overlap disease for those with lupus.

Environmental factors like unprotected sun exposure, for those with photosensitivity caused by lupus, can cause the skin to flush and feel unbearably warm. These are often the first signs of lupus itself, of an impending lupus flare, or of high disease activity.

Other health conditions that can cause overheating include:

Vasculitis: Night sweats are common to those with vasculitis, primarily when it affects the blood vessels of the nose, sinuses, ears, lungs, or kidneys.

Thyroid disorders: Having too much of the hormone thyroxine due to hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease can make a person heat sensitive and feeling hot when they should not.

Diabetes: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that affect sweat glands, impairing the body’s ability to stay cool.

Hormonal changes: Estrogen changes from menstruation, pregnancy, ovarian failure, and menopause can cause hot flashes and night sweats in women. Low testosterone can cause hot flashes for men, which can also be a warning sign of a prostate disorder.

Nervous system disorders: Anhidrosis (or hypohidrosis) occurs when someone loses the ability to sweat normally.  This can lead to overheating. Though rare, anhidrosis can also be the first sign of lupus.

Medications: Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, hypertension, seasonal allergies, and depression can cause hot flashes and overheating.

Stress and Anxiety: Excessive stress and worry can also cause hot flashes and sweating, especially when fear and worry spike.

The overheating caused by these conditions can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes once diagnosed by a healthcare practitioner.


Keeping Cool with Lupus

Always consult a healthcare practitioner to figure out what is causing overheating. In the meantime, there are several things to do to stay cool and comfortable:

  • Hydrate by sipping on cool water as often as possible.
  • Keep skin cool by spritzing with a spray bottle or soaking a towel in cold water.
  • Dress in loose, light layers to peel off or add back on as necessary.
  • Limit sun exposure by using sun protective clothing, sun lotion or stay in the shade. Avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Stay indoors when the weather is hot, and turn on a fan or air conditioning if needed.
  • Limit activity, especially in hot weather or when feeling exhausted or overheated.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as both can trigger hot flashes and sweating. Reach for a smoothie or popsicle instead!
  • Reduce stress by seeing a mental health professional for help with worry and anxiety.

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In Conclusion

If you have lupus, feeling uncontrollably hot and sweaty for seemingly no reason can be miserable. However, once a proper diagnosis is made, and treatment begins, it can be possible for those with lupus to keep their cool!

 

References

Cronkleton, E. (2019, July 15). How to reduce body heat quickly and get relief? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-reduce-body-heat

Hot flashes in men: an update. (2019, March 18). Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Hot-flashes-in-men-An-update

Osborn, C. (2019, June 21). Why am I always hot? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/why-am-i-always-hot

Thami, G., Kaur, S., & Kanwar, A. (2003). Acquired idiopathic generalized anhidrosis: a rare cause of heat intolerance. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 28, 262-264. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2230.2003.01208.x

Vasculitis. (2019, June 13). National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vasculitis/

Wanchu, A., Khullar, M., Deodhar, S., Bambery, P. & Sud, A. (1998). Nitric oxide synthesis is increased in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Rheumatology International, 18, 41-43. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002960050055

 

Author: Liz Heintz

Liz Heintz is a technical and creative writer who received her BA in Communications, Advocacy, and Relational Communications from Marylhurst University in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She most recently worked for several years in the healthcare industry. A native of San Francisco, California, Liz now calls the beautiful Pacific Northwest home.

All images unless otherwise noted are property of and were created by Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus. To use one of these images, please contact us at [email protected] for written permission; image credit and link-back must be given to Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus.

All resources provided by us are for informational purposes only and should be used as a guide or for supplemental information, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. The personal views expressed here do not necessarily encompass the views of the organization, but the information has been vetted as a relevant resource. We encourage you to be your strongest advocate and always contact your healthcare practitioner with any specific questions or concerns.

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