Lupus is an autoimmune condition that afflicts nearly 1.5 million Americans and as many as 3.5 million people in other parts of the world. This chronic illness flares and subsides with time, but because there is no cure for the disease, people with a diagnosis must learn to live with it. Lupus can range in severity, with some people experiencing major symptoms and others only having to put up with mild ones. All cases of lupus should be diagnosed by a doctor and a treatment plan should always be followed for a good prognosis. If you or someone you love has lupus, it's a good idea to get educated about the disease so that a healthy and full life can be had.
When lupus occurs, it causes the body to attack its own healthy tissue. Some part of developing lupus can be blamed on genetics, though a person’s environment also plays a role. For someone with a tendency toward the illness, certain events during life can trigger it, including something as simple as exposure to sunlight. Suffering from an infection is another trigger for individuals. Still others notice symptoms of lupus after taking certain medications. Blood pressure pills, anti-seizure medications and certain antibiotics are some that might be the culprit. If lupus runs in your family, be sure to mention it to your doctor so that proper medical care for other conditions doesn’t end up causing lupus to develop. Some people may develop lupus for no known reason.
Diagnosis usually involves blood testing. You’ll also speak with your doctor about the presence of symptoms, family history of lupus and other issues that can help produce a good picture of what’s going on so that a proper diagnosis can be made. If you are ever unhappy with what you hear from one doctor, feel free to get a second or third opinion until you are sure you are getting the diagnosis that makes the most sense to you.
Health experts say that diagnosing lupus can be difficult because many of the symptoms are present in more common illnesses or diseases. Perhaps the most telltale sign of lupus is a red butterfly-shaped rash that develops on a person’s cheeks. Doctors say that each case of lupus is different, so you may have symptoms that someone else doesn’t exhibit and vice versa. This being said, doctors do look for certain things when diagnosing lupus. Understanding what those symptoms are can help you care for yourself or someone you love when a flare up occurs.
In addition to a rash, many people who have lupus also have skin lesions that get worse with exposure to sunlight. Others notice that their fingers and toes change color when they are cold or when they feel stressed out about something. Dry eyes are another reported issue that many people with lupus report. Others may feel extreme fatigue or have a recurring fever. Headaches, joint pain, stiffness, swelling, confusion and memory loss might also occur. Lupus might also cause shortness of breath and chest pain in some individuals.
Again, symptoms range in severity and you may have just a couple or all of them. Each of your flares can also be a bit different. Because lupus causes your body to attack healthy tissue, your symptoms will depend upon which systems within your body the reaction is occurring. For example, you might notice breathing issues if lupus is causing an attack on your respiratory system. Be sure to mention all symptoms to your doctor so that you can get the best care possible.
Because symptoms vary on a case-by-case basis, your lupus treatment will depend on the exact scenario you are facing. Many people who experience pain associated with lupus can deal with it by taking over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. Other medications that can treat the issues that arise with lupus include anti-malarial drugs, immunosuppressants and corticosteroids. These medications fight things like swelling and immunity issues. Each carries its own set of potential side effects and risks, so be sure you understand proper dosage and use of the medication so that you can get the most out of it without compromising other aspects of your health.
Medications aren’t the only method of treatment for lupus, though they are a powerful choice for many people. Experts also suggest being sure to get enough sleep each night. This helps battle fatigue and keeps your body healthy. When you spend time outdoors, make sure to keep your skin covered and wear sunscreen so that sun exposure doesn’t cause a flare. People with lupus should avoid cigarettes because they can exacerbate symptoms having to do with your heart and respiration. You should also ensure that you are getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet. By caring for your body, keeping your weight healthy and meeting your daily intake recommendations for vitamins and minerals, you ensure that your body has the tools it needs to manage lupus and keep you feeling healthy despite your disease.
In terms of nutrients, there are several that people need to account for when they have lupus. Many people with lupus are deficient in vitamin D. Experts are unsure if this is because they are advised to avoid excessive sunlight of if the disease itself causes the lower than average levels. For many, a vitamin D supplement can help control the disease. Fortified dairy products are another way to boost vitamin D intake for patients with lupus.
Fish oil is another commonly recommended supplement. It can help slow the progression of lupus and because it contains omega 3 fatty acids, it offers protection to internal systems that may be affected by the condition. Fish oil is available over the counter at any drugstore and has very few potential side effects about which you should be concerned.
DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands also show promise for managing lupus. Studies have shown that people who take 200 milligrams of DHEA daily suffer fewer and less severe flare-ups of their disease. You can talk to your doctor about adding this to your regimen. You may need a prescription for the hormone instead of finding it over the counter like some of the other supplements commonly recommended for lupus.
Vitamins E, A and C are other nutrients that have a positive effect on controlling lupus. Vitamin E is abundant in nuts, seeds and avocados. Vitamins A and C can be found easily in most fruits and vegetables. This is further proof that a healthy diet is a vital part of living with lupus. Talk to your doctor about your dietary intake needs and to determine if a supplement is necessary to close any nutritional gaps.
Diagnosis may not be swift, but once you receive one, you should be aware of what health issues you can suffer if you slack off on treatment. Lupus can lead to kidney damage, behavioral changes, mental health deterioration, hallucinations, anemia, increased bleeding, issues with blood clotting, pleurisy and inflammation surrounding the heart and lungs. Other issues that can arise include infections, issues with successful pregnancy and necrosis. A lupus diagnosis is also associated with a higher risk of developing some type of cancer.
There are several things to know about lupus that can help you stay healthy and educate those around you as to what you are up against each day. Lupus is not contagious and you cannot pass it anyone in any way, including through sexual contact. Despite affecting your immune system, lupus is not related to AIDS or HIV and actually causes the opposite issue as your immune system is in overdrive rather than being suppressed. Women in their childbearing years are the most common sufferers of lupus, though men can also it get, but the numbers show that it’s not as common with that gender. While people of all races and ethnicities can develop lupus, it is least common in Caucasians.
No matter what your specific symptoms are and to what degree you suffer from lupus, it is important to see your doctor regularly to keep a good handle on what’s going on with you. The main thing is to stay in contact with your primary care physician, as well as any specialists you’re seeing, so that when new issues present themselves, you and your medical team are ready with a plan of action. This also allows you to learn about new treatments and lifestyle choices you can make to manage your lupus. Constant care also allows your doctor to detect dangers, new symptoms or other issues that might be making your lupus worse. If you are prone to lupus due to genetics or environmental factors, it’s a good idea to be tested regularly so that if and when it does appear, you are prepared with a treatment plan from the start. Good healthcare is the bottom line when it comes to ensuring a good prognosis, and this condition can be controllable in many cases.
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