Lupus is a challenging chronic disease that’s becoming widespread. Research has shown that 43.7% (per 100 000 persons and 3.41 million people) of the global population suffer from this condition. It’s more prevalent in women of childbearing age (usually between ages 15 and 45).
This autoimmune condition generally causes inflammation. In some cases, it can result in permanent and widespread tissue damage, affecting the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, circulating blood cells, heart, and brain. Even worse, it doesn’t have a cure yet.
The good news is that although it’s a lifelong disease affecting many parts of the patients’ lives, many could live long, healthy lives. The following ways are how they managed and coped with the symptoms and challenges of lupus.
Know Your Condition Well
Lupus affects everyone differently. Hence, it helps if you’ll learn everything you can about it. The more you know it, the easier it’ll be to predict “flares.” These are times when your lupus symptoms worsen, making you terribly sick.
Lupus “flares” or “flares-up” happen when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation. These make people feel pain and stiffness with or without swelling, typically in their neck, thighs, shoulders, upper arms, and other internal body organs like the kidney, lungs, heart, and brain.
These symptoms can come and go and vary in length. For example, you may have muscle pain and fever for a week, no symptoms the next, and then have swelling and rashes again for several days. There are even times when flares occur without apparent symptoms and are determined only with laboratory tests.
Knowing your condition can help pinpoint your flares’ triggers or warning signs and what makes them worse. This enables you to keep your flares under control, look for appropriate treatment options, and improve your lifestyle to minimize symptoms.
It also helps to read facts and the latest research on lupus from reliable resources online but don’t stop there. It’s crucial to seek professional medical advice. Talking to a doctor doesn’t only help you be more aware of your condition, but it’s also necessary for your treatment and to prevent your condition from progressing.
Do Follow Medication Instructions
Medication adherence, like in any condition, is key to lupus management. Always take the prescribed medicines by your doctor. Like how you learn about your condition, ask your doctor or pharmacists to be better informed of your medications and know how they work.
Hydroxychloroquine is the most common medicine to treat lupus. Although it’s an antimalarial medicine mainly used to treat malaria, it can help reduce lupus-related pain and inflammation, prevent lupus flares, help with lupus skin problems, and control other lupus symptoms with few side effects.
Although the Price of Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate can be as low as $10.14 a month, many lupus patients can’t still afford it, especially those with low or no income. Thankfully, this drug can be covered by insurance and discounted by several drug discount programs.
Note that stopping your lupus medicines is one of the common triggers for lupus flares. If you think you’re not tolerating medications or can’t afford them, let your doctor know immediately. They help you find other alternatives and continue your treatment while considering your current situation.
Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure
Many lupus patients are extremely sensitive to the sun. Lupus causes photosensitivity or increased sensitivity to UV. Specifically, long-term sun exposure can trigger and worsen their flares, so they take great measures to avoid it.
Others can tolerate sunlight without increasing lupus activity, as long as it’s in small doses. Despite this, it’s still necessary to be very cautious since the amount of tolerable sun exposure differs between individuals.
Some lupus medications can also increase the sunburn rate. If you’re currently on meds or taking treatments, it’s best to always cover up, avoid sun exposure for long periods, and apply sunblock (for makeup, choose those with sunscreen).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends sunscreen with at least 15 SPF, but this is for the general public. If you have lupus, choose sunscreens with at least 30 SPF, but 70+ is even better, according to experts.
Eat Healthily And Be Physically Active
Healthy living is essential for people with lupus. Opt for meals rich in protein and essential vitamins, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, poultry, and seafood. Ensure to get enough calcium for your bone health and omega-3 fatty acids for your heart health.
It’s necessary to stay fit as well. Choose low-impact activities like walking, biking, or swimming to prevent hurting your joints, bones, and muscles. Consider gentle yoga for tight muscles and stress relief.
Every person has a different body type, so seek professional advice from your healthcare or treatment team first. Work with them when creating your personalized meal plans, and ask them which workout routines are effective and safe for your condition.
Take Time for Yourself
Although learning about lupus is essential, it also helps to take a break from focusing on it when needed. Living well with it often involves making many changes within your family, career, and social circle. Remember, despite its massive impact on your life, it doesn’t define you. Take time to do things you enjoy to help you reconnect with yourself.
Living with lupus can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you have recently been diagnosed with it. In these times, know that help, whether it’s medical, psychological, or financial, is always available and accessible nowadays. Don’t hesitate to reach out.