Muscle aches, also known as myalgia, are common in people with lupus. In fact, about two-thirds of people with lupus complain of some type of muscle ache. Fortunately, not every muscle will hurt – the most common myalgias that people complain of are the muscles between the neck and elbow and the hip and knee.
It is worth mentioning that even though muscle pain is felt, this does not mean that the muscles are weakening. Occasionally, the muscles can become red and inflamed, but this is less common than simply feeling pain.
Treatment: Muscle pain is typically treated based on symptoms. Using an over-the-counter pain remedy such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin can relieve pain as well as inflammation. Using a heat pack of ice pack can also relieve pain – using whatever feels best is suggested. Elevating legs can also provide some relief. According to Lupus LA, the best long-term remedy is exercise – “The more you use the joints and muscles—and the more strength you build in your body—the less likely you are to be laid low by debilitating aches and pains.”
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are exceptionally common in people with lupus.
In a 2016 by BMC Psychiatry, researchers evaluated 59 studies, which included 10,828 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). They found that of these patients, 24 percent suffered from major depression and 37 percent suffered from anxiety. The study concluded that rheumatologists needed to screen their patients for depression and anxiety and refer them to mental health providers for treatment if their screening indicated a need.
Are depression and anxiety a direct cause of lupus? Possibly!
It is thought that the disease process itself may contribute to the development of depression and anxiety. The medications used to treat the disease may even contribute to depression and anxiety.
However, depression and anxiety can also be a side effect of the disease – meaning they can develop because of feeling hopeless from your condition, as well as physical limitations, pain, and uncertainty about the future.
Treatment: It is likely your rheumatologist is screening you for depression and anxiety. You should be honest during these screenings so that you can get help if indicated.
You should also reach out to your healthcare providers if you begin to develop what you think may be depression or anxiety. Your physician may prescribe medications that can help. Your physician should also suggest speaking with a mental health provider.
You can help yourself by doing the following:
- Improve your lifestyle habits by getting exercise, getting enough rest, limiting alcohol intake, and eating a balanced diet.
- Learn stress-management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Seek support from a lupus support group, talking to a trusted family member or friend, or a clergy member.
- Do activities that you enjoy.
The Bottom Line…
Lupus is fraught with symptoms. Why? Because it is autoimmune in nature. It is systemic, meaning that it may eventually affect every body system and organ in the body.
However, no two people are alike, and every case is different. Some cases of lupus are more severe than others. While this list may read like a worst-case scenario, there are some people who may suffer from only a symptom or two – and others who may suffer from every symptom in this article.
It is also interesting to note that many of the symptoms are treated in much the same way – with corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and antimalarial medications. Why? Because gaining control of lupus will reduce the symptoms experienced. Other symptoms are treated simply by treating the symptomology.
If you begin to develop new symptoms, it's important to reach out to your doctor and inform them of any new symptoms. Your healthcare team will develop a treatment plan specifically for you and your symptoms.
Remember at the end of the day, taking the best care of yourself is the best thing you can do. Always make it a priority to practice self-care, do not push yourself, and remember that lupus doesn't define who you are as a person.