Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune condition. Autoimmune diseases force the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells and tissues. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose due to the wide variety of symptoms that it presents. It is also known as the “disease of 1000 faces”.
Lupus is more common in women than in men and can set in anytime between 15 to 45 years of age. It affects various organs and systems within the body such as joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs.
In most cases of lupus, the disease is mild with temporary episodes of worsening symptoms, known as ‘flares’. After a flare, the symptoms may disappear or reduce for a while. Lupus is a lifelong condition that requires constant checkups and management of symptoms.
Symptoms of Lupus
Some of the various signs and symptoms of lupus which are most common amongst patients are mentioned below-
- Fever and fatigue, body pains
- Recurrent oral ulcers
- Hair loss
- Joint pain and swelling
- A butterfly-shaped rash across the face which covers the nose and cheeks
- Lesions on the skin that worsen when exposed to sunlight
- Chest pain and shortness of breath
- Fingers and toes turning blue or white when exposed to cold or during stressful situations, also known as Raynaud’s Phenomenon
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
- Dry eyes
- End-stage kidney disease in severe stages
Lupus shows different symptoms in different patients depending on the body parts that are affected. There is no known cure for this condition and complete sustained remissions are rare.
Tips to live healthy with Lupus
While this condition affects different individuals differently, following these simple steps can make life with lupus a little better
- Managing stress reduces flares – Stress can make flares worse or can trigger them. Regular meditation helps lower stress levels which in turn reduces lupus flares.
- Exercise regularly – Exercising is helpful for everyone especially for those suffering from lupus — it helps in maintaining body and muscle strength. Lupus patients should, however, avoid any kind of high-impact exercises that may stress their joints. Exercises such as swimming and walking are perfect for maintaining strength and also reducing stress.
- Eating healthy – It is important for lupus patients to take care of their bones and joints. Hence a calcium-rich diet is recommended. Also adding lots of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains can help.
- Avoid the sun – Around two-thirds of lupus patients have an increased sensitivity to UV rays and exposure to the sun can result in skin lesions. Using a sunscreen of SPF 30 and broad-spectrum coverage of both UVA and UVB protection is recommended, when stepping out in the sun.
- Take vitamin D – Since lupus patients are sensitive to the sun, they must look for other sources of vitamin D. Taking vitamin D supplements or eating vitamin D enriched foods can help.
- Avoid smoking and drinking – Smoking increases the chances of inflammations and increases the risk of flares in lupus patients. Alcohol can also interfere with certain lupus medications
- Adherence to medication – Most importantly, if your immunologist has prescribed medication for your condition, please ensure you adhere to the dosage strictly
Living with lupus can be challenging. However, effective self-care, planning and proper medications allow patients to live a normal life.