May is Lupus Awareness Month
Lupus is a lifelong disease that can affect many parts of your life. However, many people with lupus live long, healthy lives. You can take steps to control your symptoms, prevent lupus flares and cope with the challenges of lupus.
The best way to keep your lupus under control is by following your treatment plan and taking care of yourself. These steps can help:
- Learn how to tell that a flare is coming.
- See your doctors regularly.
- Limit the time you spend in the sun and in fluorescent and halogen light.
- Get enough sleep and rest.
- Build a support system made up of people you trust and can go to for help.
Despite your best efforts to follow your treatment plan and take good care of yourself, you may have times when your lupus symptoms are worse. Talk to your doctor about ways to relieve symptoms when this happens. The times when your symptoms get worse and you feel sick are called flares. Flares can come and go. You may have swelling and rashes one week and no symptoms the next. Sometimes flares happen without clear symptoms and are seen only with laboratory tests.
Lupus flares most often have warning signs. You can help prevent flares or make them less severe if you can spot the warning signs and get treatment quickly, such as:
- Feeling more tired
- Stomach ache
- Severe headache
There is no way to know if a flare will be mild or serious. Mild or moderate flares may cause only a rash or more joint pain. But severe flares can damage organs in the body, including fluid buildup around your heart and kidney disease. Call your doctor if you get the warning signs of a flare. Your doctor may want to adjust your medicine or treatment plan.
Ask your doctor if you need to eat special foods or limit other foods because of your lupus.
- If you develop hyperlipidemia (high level of fats in the blood) because of your lupus, you may need to follow a low-fat eating plan.
- If steroids and other medicines cause you to gain weight, you may want to follow a low-calorie eating plan.
- Because people with lupus need to avoid the sun, you may lack vitamin D. Your doctor or nurse may advise you to take a vitamin.
Dealing with a chronic disease like lupus can be challenging. Concerns about your health and the effects of lupus on your work and family life can be stressful. Talk to your doctor and others about your symptoms and feelings. You also may want to consider counseling or joining a support group. Many people find it helpful to talk to others who have similar experiences.
For more information on managing lupus, read here.