As many of us may or may not know, Lupus Awareness Month is in May. This is a time where people worldwide come together to educate those who may not know what lupus is and how it affects many aspects of a person’s life. Not only can it be quite taxing on the body but it can affect one’s social life too.
What Is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease which means that our immune system, which is made up of many different cells designed to protect our body from harmful bacteria and viruses, is attacking one’s own body. This causes inflammation which can affect just about any part of the body including skin, heart, kidneys, brain, etc. While there are varying reasons why lupus exists, it is speculated that it may be caused by genetic predisposition, environmental factors, certain medications and more.
Who Does Lupus Affect?
Lupus affects approximately 5 million people worldwide. It is more prevalent in women of childbearing age than men. Newborns have also been known to have lupus when they receive antibodies from their mother who has lupus but after a while it subsides. Lupus affects people of all ethnicities.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lupus?
Symptoms of lupus can be but are not limited to: tiredness, constant, brain fog, memory loss, butterfly rash on face across nose, joint swelling and stiffness, Raynaud’s Syndrome (fingers/toes turning white/blue in the cold), hair loss, etc. You can experience one or more symptom simultaneously. The exacerbation of symptoms, also known as flares, can be brought upon with stress, consuming foods or medicines one may be sensitive to, sun exposure and more. Each person can experience a different trigger which often makes the diagnosis hard to come by.
It is important that people with lupus pay attention to their bodies and know certain triggers such as sensitivities to foods, scents, etc. Generally you can tell when you experience a flare within a certain period of time whether it be within a few minutes, hours or a day of exposure of a trigger. Always consult your doctor when any new symptoms come up so your treatment plan can be adjusted accordingly.
What Are The Treatment Options?
Typical drug treatments involve immunosuppressants, or NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). My personal experience has been with Cellcept (Mycophenlate)-immunosuppressant, Prednisone-anti-inflammatory immunosuppressant, Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine)-anti-viral immunosuppressant. I no longer take the latter. I’ve also incorporated certain things such as eliminating dairy and utilizing anti-inflammatory herbs in my food and daily life including occasional detoxes. Consuming a healthy, balanced whole food eating regimen was another big factor for me. Keeping up with personal hygiene as well as staying away from people with contagious diseases also helps. Incorporating routine gentle exercises such as yoga help to keep joints flexible and muscles healthy. All of these treatments have allowed me to be symptom free for over 7 years.
The goal with treatments is to bring lupus into remission. There are varying defining factors of what lupus remission is which includes lab reports showing normal immune function, not showing any autoimmune activity and an absence of flares.
How Can Lupus Affect Social Life?
Because many Lupus Warriors have to deal with so many symptoms including possible side effects of some of the medicines and the overall nature of the disease it can be difficult to keep a socially healthy life. However, with the internet it is easier for people to connect and share stories. Thrivers Inspire Healing has a community for people to make connections as well as a place to share your story to help inspire others to take better care of their health and know that they are not alone in their fight.
You may not even be aware that someone you know is battling the illness because there are times that symptoms are not apparent. I, personally, have my own journey with Lupus nephritis (affecting kidneys). There are also many celebrities who are dealing with the disease including Nick Cannon, Toni Braxton, Ava DuVernay and Selena Gomez.
During Lupus Awareness Month people are encouraged to wear purple or display a purple ribbon on their social media profiles, on their cars, clothing, purses, etc. in support of education and teaching others about this potentially debilitating disease. We must do everything we can to ensure that people with lupus know about all available resources to help make our lives easier. Spreading of information about lupus, treatments for it and lifestyle changes are also important for those who have friends and family members who live with it so they are aware of how they can be of service when need be. Sharing this article is another way you can do this.
Be well and stay active in your self care!