How do adverse childhood experiences affect lupus symptoms in adults?

An image to illustrate lupus, which has been associated with adverse childhood experiences
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The University of California has studied adults who had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how this affects their lupus symptoms.

The study of 269 patients with lupus observed that over sixty percent identified at least one ACE, with over fifteen percent indicating at least four adverse childhood experiences.

The lead author Dr. Kimberly DeQuattro, of the University of California, San Francisco, said: “More than half of participants with lupus reported ACE exposure, many of whom experienced substantial trauma in childhood. There is a clear difference in patient-reported outcomes with cumulative ACE exposure in these individuals.”

DeQuattro added: “This work in lupus supports more broadly the body of studies on adversity and trauma in childhood that have found a link between ACEs and health. It is a call to action to focus efforts on ACE prevention in childhood as well as clinical and mental health interventions that foster resilience in adulthood.”

Defining adverse childhood experiences

Adverse childhood experiences include traumas such as:

  • Abuse;
  • Neglect; and
  • Household challenges.

The link between adverse childhood experiences and lupus symptoms

The study of adults with lupus found that higher adverse childhood experiences levels, and the presence of ACEs from each of the three domains above were associated with worse patient-reported accounts of:

  • Disease activity;
  • Organ damage;
  • Depression;
  • Physical function; and
  • Overall health status.

The wider context

United Nations states: “Violence has a direct impact on a child’s health through physical and mental injury and, in the most severe cases, death. However, a child who survives abuse is also at increased risk of developing health-harming and antisocial behaviours during adolescence and noncommunicable conditions, mental illness and disability during adulthood.68 The magnitude of these effects is substantive. For example, 30% of the adult mental illnesses identified through World Mental Health Surveys in 21 countries were attributed to physical abuse in childhood or other adverse childhood experiences.”

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