Lupus is an inflammatory disease that is caused by the immune system attacking its own organs and tissues. Inflammation from this chronic disease can affect many different bodily systems, such as your joints, skin, blood cells, heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain.
The most distinctive sign of lupus is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly; however, this symptom does not occur in all cases. Because of this, this disease is rather difficult to diagnose at times since other symptoms can be very similar to other conditions and ailments.
There is no cure for lupus, but there are treatments and remedies that can help control your symptoms.
There are many different medications that can be used to treat the various symptoms of lupus. You will need to decide with your doctor whether the benefits of medications outweigh the risks of the side effects some of them have. Since the signs and symptoms of lupus tend to periodically flare up and subside, you may also need to work with your doctor to change medications or dosages at times. The most commonly prescribed medications for treating lupus include:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): Naproxen sodium and ibuprofen are over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications that are often used to treat the pain, swelling, and fever that are associated with lupus. Stronger versions of these medications are available by prescription as well.
- Corticosteroid medications: Corticosteroids such as prednisone can help to counter the inflammation caused by lupus. However, these medications also have the potential to produce long-term side effects, including weight gain, thinning bones, high blood pressure, easy bruising, increased risk for infection, and diabetes.
- Immunosuppressant medications: For more severe cases of lupus, medications that suppress the immune system may be helpful. This could include drugs such as Imuran, CellCept, Arava, and Trexall. However, there are potential risks for side effects with these medications, such as liver damage, decreased fertility, increased risk of infection, and an increased risk of cancer.
- Anti-malarial medications: Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) is a medication that is commonly used to treat malaria and also works to control some of the symptoms of lupus.
Since there are so many dangerous side effects associated with the medications used to treat lupus, sometimes it is more appealing to try to prevent flare-ups by taking better care of your body. Here are some tips for how to best manage your condition at home.
- Get enough rest: Persistent fatigue is a common symptom of lupus. Make sure to get plenty of restful sleep at night and take naps or breaks during the day if you begin to feel overly tired.
- Eat a healthy diet: Focusing on eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you to feel better overall and prevent lupus flare-ups.
- Get regular exercise: Moderate exercise can help your body recover from symptom flare-ups, as well as reduce your risk of heart attack. Additionally, exercise can help to fight depression that can arise from battling lupus.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking will worsen the effects of lupus on your blood vessels and heart.
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun: Ultraviolet light can serve as a trigger for lupus flare-ups. Therefore, you should try to wear protective clothing outdoors and use sunscreens with at least SPF 55 to protect yourself from the sun.
- See your doctor regularly: Having regular checkups with your doctor can help prevent future flare-ups as well.