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Understanding Lupus

Systemic lupus is a disease that causes your body’s immune system to attack its own cells and tissues. This can affect your joints and organs, such as the skin and kidneys. Lupus is most common in young adult women. It is an ongoing problem that can be serious, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from doing the things you enjoy. You can help control lupus by living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Be sure to see your doctor for regular checkups and lab work. At some point, your doctor may send you to a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in lupus, arthritis, and other related diseases).

Symptoms

Lupus can appear in many parts of the body. Because of this, it can affect people in different ways. Some of the most common symptoms of lupus include:

  • Rashes

  • Swollen or painful joints (arthritis)

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Sores in the mouth or nose

  • More severe symptoms, such as chest pain, edema (leg and ankle swelling), and stroke.

You aren’t likely to have all of these symptoms. And the symptoms you do have may go away for some time (remission). If lupus flares up again, your symptoms may return the same as before.

Medications May Help

Medications can’t cure lupus, but they can relieve symptoms. Some medications help prevent organ damage or suppress the disease. Your doctor will prescribe one or more medications to help you feel better. Be sure to take them as directed.

  • Keep a list of all your medications. Share the list with each doctor you see.

  • Don’t skip a dose or stop taking a medication without talking with your doctor.

  • Find out if your medications should be taken with food.

  • Tell your doctor if you have any side effects, such as dizziness or stomach problems.

  • Be sure to have all the lab tests that your doctor orders.

Take Care of Yourself

  • Find the right balance of rest and activity.

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grains.

  • Maintain your proper weight.

  • Exercise a few times a week, at least. Try walking, swimming, or biking.

  • Learn ways to reduce or manage stress.

  • Stay out of the sun as much as you can. Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.

Find Support

Lupus can put special demands on your life. Family and friends can be a good source of help and moral support. You may also want to join a support group for lupus patients. By talking with other people who have lupus, you may learn new ways to cope. You may also feel less alone. For more information, contact the following:

  • The Arthritis Foundation

    www.arthritis.org

    800-283-7800

  • Lupus Foundation of America

    www.lupus.org

    800-558-0121

© 2000-2011 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.