The summer months bring the heat — and plenty of sweating and hot flashes. Many Lupus Warriors experience heat-intolerance and are at an increased risk of overheating 🌵☀️
Feeling hot? People with autoimmune diseases frequently experience heat intolerance when the mercury rises. This means the body struggles to regulate temperature, resulting in a person feeling unbearably hot. It can result in symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating.
Nitric Oxide, Lupus, and Overheating
First of all, individuals who have heat intolerance in addition to an autoimmune condition have been found to have elevated levels of nitric oxide in the body. Naturally occurring nitric oxide in the body, such as endogenous nitric oxide, works as an agent to widen blood vessels.
This widening of the blood vessels (known as vasodilation) also occurs when the body’s core temperature increases. Vasodilation causes more heat to be carried by the blood to the skin, where it can be lost to the air.
For Lupus Warriors, too much heat is rapidly transferred from blood to skin during vasodilation. This causes overheating. It’s very common for Lupus Warriors to be in a warmer setting and unexpectedly experience an intense overheating episode.
LupusCorner Insights Survey Results
LupusCorner conducted a poll of over 530 members of the LupusCorner community about the impact of environmental and weather factors on lupus and lupus symptoms.
77.8% of people with lupus agreed that environmental factors impacted their lupus symptoms. Environmental factors considered were pollution, allergens, and the weather.
The environmental factors that most influenced lupus symptoms in the survey were increases in temperature (68.9%) and humidity (57.8%).
The most common lupus symptoms impacted by environmental factors were fatigue (81.4%) and joint/muscle pain (81.4%). Headaches, lupus flares, rashes/lesions, and brain fog were also commonly reported.
What steps have you taken to combat these environmental factors?
This response was free text. Responses generated the word cloud below. The size of the word correlates with the frequency of its use in the responses.
While “sun” shows up, most responses had to do with “sun safety” or “staying out of the sun”
Hyperthyroidism, Overheating, & Lupus
Located in the neck area, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ responsible for regulating the metabolism and releasing hormones. It plays an essential role during puberty—(think of all the significant hormonal changes during that time).
Metabolism and core body temperature are undoubtedly linked. A 2009 study at the Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association reports that an increase in body temperature is associated with a higher metabolic rate, and higher body temperatures do speed up metabolism. Because of this, an overactive thyroid might cause intense overheating episodes.
Thyroid disease is a blanket term that describes a number of conditions. The most common subsets of thyroid disease are:
- Thyroid nodules
- A condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone
- The overproduction of a hormone
- Abnormal enlargement of the gland below the Adam’s apple
- Inflammation of the thyroid
- Thyroid cancer
Any of these thyroid conditions can have a significant impact on the metabolism, hormones, and body temperature.
Comorbidity of Hyperthyroidism and Lupus
Typically an under-active thyroid produces symptoms that are very similar to lupus, for example:
However, an overactive thyroid—or hyperthyroidism—causes symptoms such as skin rash and dizziness which Lupus Warriors experience, too.
More Lupus Warriors experience under-active thyroid disease. Therefore, there needs to be more attention on the overlap between thyroid disease and lupus. Per the study “Prevalence of thyroid dysfunction in systemic lupus erythematosus,” there is much more to be discovered regarding the comorbidity of thyroid issues and lupus. According to these researchers, SLE patients should be routinely checked for autoimmune thyroid disease.
Menopause and Lupus
Another culprit for heat intolerance is menopause. Women experience this natural part of life usually in their 40’s and 50’s. Hormone levels drastically deplete causing significant symptoms and changes within the body.
Menopausal Symptoms and Lupus
Low levels of progesterone are linked to hot flashes. Also, other natural hormonal changes might cause night sweats or hot flashes. Sometimes hot flashes and night sweats just interrupt sleep. Other times, they can negatively and severely affect the quality of life.
Lupus does not intensify hot flashes or night sweats. The overall heat intolerant nature of Lupus Warriors can compound with hot flashes causing much distress. Lupus also does not cause too many irregularities with menopause, but there have been cases of early perimenopause and/or menopause in Lupus Warriors.
Talk with your lupus treatment team to determine the exact cause of overheating. Regarding menopause, there are abundant resources out there for women who experience hot flashes and night sweats from these hormonal changes.
Finally, remember that hot flashes, overheating, and intense sweating episodes are challenging and exhausting. Staying calm and talking to a medical provider about symptoms will help streamline treatment and bring comfort…hang in there.
Article updated: August 25, 2020