How Does Lupus Affect the Body?
The Bones and Joints, and Lupus
Tissue death can occur in bones if the blood supply is decreased, leading to weak bones, bone fractures, or bone erosion.
Joint pain is one of the most frequent lupus-related complaints since lupus arthritis can cause stiff, swollen, and painful joints.
Less than 10 percent of the time lupus arthritis can also cause joint-related deformities.
Lupus and the Muscles
Muscle pain is present in up to 50 percent of people with lupus and happens when the muscles become inflamed or swollen.
Muscle inflammation can become very problematic if it leads to muscle weakness and loss of strength.
Lupus and Pregnancy
Miscarriage, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and fetal death are all serious concerns for women with lupus who become pregnant.
Around 70 percent of lupus pregnancies result in a live birth, and negative outcomes seem to be connected to disease flare-ups during pregnancy.
Lupus Treatment: What’s Available?
Treatment for lupus will vary according to how it is affecting the body; someone with mild lupus will have a vastly different treatment plan compared to someone with lupus nephritis.
All symptoms need to be taken into account when devising a lupus treatment plan. The focus of any plan will be to prevent and limit flares and organ damage.
Managing lupus will likely include a combination of medications, preventative measures, lifestyle changes, diet, and exercise.
Here is an overview of some common lupus medications:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to reduce pain, swelling, fever, and inflammation. However, they can cause stomach bleeding, kidney issues, and heart problems.
- Antimalarial drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine, decrease lupus symptoms and flare frequency by interfering with the immune system. Side effects tend to be few, but include stomach and –rarely – eye damage.
- Corticosteroids are used to treat a variety of lupus issues, and high doses are utilized when disease activity becomes serious. Side effects can be intense and range from weight gain, high blood pressure, bone thinning, diabetes, insomnia, cataracts easy bruising, and higher risk for infection.
- Immunosuppressants are powerful drugs for lowering disease activity with lupus. There are several different immunosuppressant options; azathioprine and methotrexate are common choices, but someone with lupus nephritis might take mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) or cyclophosphamide instead. These drugs can increase the risk of cancer, infertility, liver damage, and infection.
- Biologics, such as Benlysta, reduce lupus symptoms by targeting specific parts of the immune system. Side effects vary but may include depression, intestinal issues, nausea, and infections.
Medications to treat pain and other lupus-related issues, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, are often part of a lupus treatment plan. Topical creams, ointment, corticosteroid injections are used for skin involvement.
Lifestyle changes and preventative measures can be very effective components of a comprehensive lupus treatment plan. This will vary for each person but may include careful sun protection, resting often, avoiding known flare triggers, a healthy diet, and a regular exercise regimen.
Tips for Living With Lupus
Lupus can easily seem overwhelming, but many people learn to cope it with well – especially after the first few years. Essential tips for living well with lupus are frequently learned through trial and error.
Find Excellent Doctors and See Them Regularly
You may need to see your primary doctor, rheumatologist, dermatologist, and other doctors on a periodic basis. Review your doctors’ notes and lab tests after each appointment, and keep an ongoing list of questions to prepare for your next one.
Educate Yourself About Lupus as Much as Possible
Reading The Lupus Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Guide for Patients and Families is a great place to start.
There are plenty of online resources to help you stay up to date such as The Lupus Foundation, Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus, and Lupus News Today.
Establish a Self-Care Routine
This will help to combat fatigue and lower stress levels. Turning self-care into a routine ensures that you make time to rest regularly and prevents over-activity that can lead to flares.
Make Lifestyle Changes Where Necessary
Stop smoking, add healthier foods to your diet, prioritize sleep, and find an exercise routine that works for you. Be sure to ask your doctor what lifestyle changes they recommend in addition to possible medications.
Learn to Communicate Effectively About Lupus
Others may not be able to tell how lupus is making you feel. Learning to communicate about what you are going through will enable others to understand and be better equipped to help you.
Avoid the Sun as Well as Indoor Uv Lighting as Much as Possible.
When you can’t avoid either, wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing – always put on more than you expect you might need.
Connect with Others Who Have Lupus
A lupus support group can be surprisingly helpful; talking to other lupus warriors can be cathartic and a valuable way to find resources.