Lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and damages healthy tissues of the skin, joints and internal organs. A study has found that women who suffer from this disease can take oral contraceptives safely without any complications like increased risk of flares, or periods of increased disease activity, that characterize the disease.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The entire study can be described as stated by the researchers as a 15-center study of 183 women with inactive or stable lupus. The women who were taking oral contraceptives (triphasic 35 ĩg.ethinylestradiol/0.5-1 mg norethindrone for twelve 28-day cycles) had no statistically significant difference in the occurrence of flares than those taking a placebo. Severe flares occurred in about 7 percent of the women, regardless of whether they received oral contraceptives or placebo. A severe flare was defined by several criteria, including the presence of new or worsening central nervous system involvement; inflammation of the blood vessels, kidneys and/or muscles; and/or blood problems, including low platelet count and destruction of the red blood cells.
As put by the authors of the study, "There are settings in which estrogens might provide benefit. Among women with lupus there is a high elective abortion rate - approaching 23 percent of pregnancies - which may reflect a failure of the birth control method used or the absence of an adequate birth control program."
In the words of NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D, "Estrogen, as used in this study, appears to be safe in the majority of women with stable disease.This research brings us another step forward in improving quality of life for people with rheumatic disease."