Autoimmune disorders are quite prevalent, and one of the most common is lupus. Medical professionals define lupus as a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the body in many different ways. It can damage the joints, skin and internal organs. It also makes the body prone to the harmful effects of foreign elements, which is why people with lupus must be consistently watchful of their health.
Lupus is also called the “great imitator” because its symptoms are rather similar to those of other diseases. Due to this, it usually takes some time before it can be clearly established that a person has this disease and not something else.
Symptoms of lupus flare up when a person’s immunity weakens.
Different Types of Lupus and Their Symptoms
There are five different types of lupus:
1. Systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE
This is the most prevalent type of lupus and its common symptoms are:
- Frequent slight fevers
- Weight loss due to lack of appetite
- Muscle and joint pains
- Hair loss
- Butterfly rash
- Chest pains
2. Discoid lupus erythematosus
This manifests through a terrible skin rash that will not go away even with dermatological treatments. This rash appears red, crusty and inflamed, causing scarring, hair loss and changes in the skin’s pigment.
3. Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus
This type of lupus causes the development of skin sores on areas of the body exposed to the sun. Because of this, it is often misdiagnosed as skin cancer.
4. Neonatal lupus
This kind of lupus affects newborns and it manifests primarily through cutaneous lupus lesions and/or a congenital heart block.
5. Drug-induced lupus
This can be caused by certain medicines. The most common drugs known to lead to drug-induced lupus are Isoniazid, Hydralazine and Procainamide.
Other symptoms of the disease that sufferers experience are anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
Causes of Lupus
There is no known real cause of lupus, but medical researchers believe that there are people who are more prone to developing this disease than others.
However, viral infections, taking certain medicines (as mentioned above), stress and even frequent exposure to sunlight are known to prompt the flare-up of the disease.
It is important to know though that certain triggers do not affect all people with lupus the same way, which is why it is often tricky to round up the causes or triggers of the disease.
How to Control the Discomforts of Lupus
When it comes to autoimmune diseases, the best defenses are usually the most practical solutions. They yield positive effects on their own, but at the same time, enhance the effects of other lupus treatments such as medication and chemotherapy.
Since it is the immune system’s job to protect the body, it is imperative to strengthen it and make it more efficient in managing lupus. The following lifestyle changes are all practical solutions, but they are highly recommended by medical professionals in boosting the immune system and controlling the effects of lupus.
1. Improve diet
Generally, a well-balanced diet helps, but to make it even more effective in helping people with lupus develop energy and strength, including anti-inflammatory foods is a must.
Fatty fish, lean meats, fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and manganese should be present in every meal.
Herbs and spices can do wonders as well. Turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory ingredient, along with olive oil, beets, blueberries, chia seeds and virgin coconut oil (VCO).
2. Get enough rest and relaxation
Stress always arrests the autoimmune system. When you are diagnosed with lupus, you must start taking rest and relaxation seriously.
Getting enough sleep will allow your body to recharge and enable your cells to regenerate properly. Likewise, treating yourself to wellness treatments such as therapeutic massages can promote better blood circulation, improve quality of sleep and diminish pains.
In therapeutic massage courses, students learn how massage can boost energy and improve flexibility – two common areas of concern for people with lupus. However, before getting a massage treatment, get clearance from your doctor first. There are cases wherein any type of “stimulation” can prove counterproductive.
3. Quit smoking
Smoking is the enemy of the immune system. Nicotine and other chemicals from tobacco can damage cells, which prompts the immune system to work overtime. One study (called “Impacts of Cigarette Smoking on Immune Responsiveness: Up and Down or Upside Down?” by authors Feifei Qiu, Chun-Ling Liang, Huazhen Liu, Yu-Qun Zeng, Shaozhen Hou, Song Huang, Xiaoping Lai and Zhenhua Dais) also reveals that cigarette smoking has “far-reaching effects on chronic inflammation and autoimmunity at a systemic level, including rheumatoid arthritis… and systemic lupus erythematosus.”
Kicking a smoking habit can help alleviate the many symptoms of lupus.
4. Stay away from the sun
You may need vitamin D from the sun for improved overall health, but if you have lupus, the sun is not much of a friend. Cover up when you need to go outside to prevent a flare-up (the emergence of sores and rashes), use a parasol and always wear sunscreen.
5. Get some form of regular exercise
This may seem like the last thing you want to do if you have lupus, but there are certain exercises that can improve how your body feels even when you’re suffering from a flare-up.
Water aerobics, for example, is perfect for those who complain of joint pain. The workout can increase strength without placing too much strain on the joints.
Tai-chi is another highly recommended exercise. The slow movements improve breathing patterns, blood circulation, body coordination and flexibility.
It’s important to mention as well that exercise triggers the release of endorphins or the happy hormones. With more of these hormones interacting with the opiate receptors in the brain, you’ll be able to manage symptoms such as depression, persistent pains and fatigue much better.
There’s no denying that lupus is a life-altering disease. But with a proper understanding of the disease, helpful lifestyle changes, and the appropriate treatments, you can prevent it from completely taking over your life.
Marc Innes is the Owner and Principal of the School of Natural Therapies, a training school for Massage & Holistic Therapies located in London. Marc began his career in the NHS, working in a number of managerial and training roles within the Ambulance Service in London. He spent much of that time educating and coaching medical staff. Over time, he developed an interest in all things complementary to Allopathic Medicine, in particular, Reiki Healing and EFT, which culminated in running a successful teaching and ‘energy healing’ practice. Marc is passionate about the massage and complementary therapy industry.