More than 1.5 million Americans suffer from lupus, an autoimmune disease where your immune system turns on itself and attacks your organs and tissue. The resulting inflammation that lupus creates affects many different systems in your body, and no two people experience the exact same thing. Your heart, lungs, brain, joints, skin, kidneys, and blood cells are all targets.
If you have been recently diagnosed with lupus, don't despair. Modern medicine is continuing to learn more about this disease, and is discovering new treatment possibilities. Recently, the gene linking women to the disease has been identified, as well as possible triggers for lupus. Having lupus may seem overwhelming, but there is a lot you can do in the meantime. Check out these ideas for helping you cope with lupus in the 21st century.
Be In Tune With Your Flares
Lupus can be intimidating because of the unpredictability of how symptoms suddenly develop and worsen, or flare. Fortunately, you can learn to control when they occur and how severely. As you become more in tune with your body, you may even be able to sense when a flare is coming. You may get a headache or an upset stomach. Maybe you're more tired or dizzy, and have a fever or upset stomach. Here are some ways to help avoid flares:
- Try to relax and de-stress. Stress is a major cause of flare-ups, so make time for yourself and practice yoga, deep breathing exercises, or other types of meditation. Know your physical limits when it comes to housework or work outside the home and don't over-do things.
- In addition to relaxing more, make a habit to take care of yourself better. In addition to faithfully visiting your doctor, keep your body in shape by exercising and eating well. Don't try high-impact exercises; instead, try walking or swimming. Get plenty of rest and don't smoke, which worsens the effects of lupus on your blood vessels and heart.
- Protect yourself from the sun by using sunscreen and wearing a hat and sunglasses. Prolonged sun exposure and even artificial light from fluorescent bulbs can trigger symptoms.
- Discuss with your doctor what medications you should avoid – many prescription and over-the-counter drugs cause flares.
Join A Support Group
No one understands lupus better than others who are also suffering from the disease – not even your doctor. Having someone to talk to other than a spouse or care-giver who understands the ups and downs of lupus helps tremendously. Support groups specifically for lupus meet regularly and talk about it. Here's how you can benefit from joining one:
- Information. This is a great place to learn about new trials, medical studies and new treatment options. You can share any information you have with your support group as well.
- Friendship. Meeting new people who are going through the same thing as you makes you feel connected and part of a group. These new friends understand your worries, frustrations and other emotions.
- Hope. Being around others can give you a sense of hope for your future as you take control of your condition. Your group will encourage you to not give up, especially during flares.
- Coping skills. Here you can get help with living with lupus daily and dealing with flares. You can discuss other problems like going to work, raising a family, and finding financial solutions.
- Structure. Joining a group that meets regularly gives you a feeling of continuity and structure during a time when you feel like you have little control in your life. Your support group meetings will give you something to look forward to.
By learning how to be in tune with your body and know when flares are coming on and joining a support group for lupus, you will have a bit of control back in your hands.Talk to your primary care physician at a place like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc. for more information and suggestions.