Lupus is a painful autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues and causes inflammation. Kimberley Shine, MD, of Shine Health and Wellness is passionate about helping people manage their autoimmune disorders, including lupus, and often counsels patients on simple lifestyle changes that can help them manage their conditions.
In this blog, Dr. Shine discusses what lupus is and what you can do if you’re battling pain, fatigue, or flare-ups.
What is lupus?
It’s not clear what exactly causes lupus, but researchers do know that the autoimmune disorder attacks healthy parts of the body and causes inflammation. Lupus can affect any part of the body, but the most common areas are the skin, heart, joints, kidneys, brain, and blood.
There are a variety of symptoms associated with lupus, including the following:
- Extreme fatigue
- Skin rashes
- Joint pain and swelling
- Low iron in the blood (anemia)
- Swelling in the feet and hands
- Light sensitivity
- Hair loss
These symptoms, on their own or combined, can cause serious pain and distress.
While there’s currently no cure for lupus, there are things you can do to help manage the condition, including the following:
1. Protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays
Everyone should take care to protect their skin from the sun, but people with lupus should take extra precautions. One symptom of lupus is photosensitivity, or sensitivity to the sun or light. Excessive sun exposure can cause a flare-up. In particular, sun exposure can lead to skin rashes.
If you have lupus, try to avoid going outside during midday and early afternoon, when the sun’s rays are peaking. When you do go outside, wear sunscreen or protective garments, such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves. You may want to ask your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements to make up for your lack of sun exposure.
2. Eat an autoimmune-friendly diet
Eating a healthy diet is key to keeping inflammation at bay. This is true for all people, but again, especially for people with lupus. Because lupus is an inflammatory disease, focus on eating an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet or the DASH Diet. Providing your body with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients will help it fight back against flare-ups.
3. Perform low-impact physical activity
If one of your lupus symptoms is joint pain, you might think that exercise would exacerbate the problem. This isn’t true. Exercise can actually relieve pain when done consistently and with good technique. Low-impact and non-impact exercises have been shown to lessen lupus symptoms, because exercise can help keep your joints and muscles moving.
Rest is essential during bad flare-ups, but if you’re feeling OK, a 30-minute walk, bike ride, or swim can help strengthen your muscles and joints. Stick to low-impact exercises to avoid accidentally making things worse.
4. Establish a good sleep cycle
Many people with lupus experience extreme — often debilitating — fatigue. Some people with lupus may feel like they can’t think or move at all on some days. The best way to deal with fatigue is to establish a consistent sleep cycle that allows you to maximize your sleep quality.
Sleep quality is arguably more important than how many hours you spend in bed each night, because if you spend 10 hours in bed but toss and turn all night, those 10 hours won’t be of much help.
To learn more about living with lupus and managing symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Shine Health and Wellness today.