Good general care is essential. A healthy lifestyle not only improves your quality of life but may also reduce your chances of having more frequent and severe flares. Taking good general care of yourself also helps decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. Good care includes:
- Getting vaccinations to help protect you from illnesses such as pneumonia and the flu. But some vaccinations are not safe if you have lupus. Talk to your doctor about your vaccination schedule.
- Treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Taking medicine to help prevent osteoporosis caused by corticosteroids.
- Preventing plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis) that can be made worse by corticosteroids.
- Protecting yourself against infections you can get more easily due to decreased immune system function.
Other good health habits that will help protect you include:
- Regular exercise.
- Education about lupus and self-care.
- Not smoking. People with lupus have an increased risk of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Smoking increases this risk even more.
- A healthy, balanced diet.
- Regular dental care.
- Regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist.
- Building a support system of family, friends, and health professionals.
If you have lupus and are a woman in your childbearing years, pay special attention to pregnancy-related concerns, both before you conceive and while pregnant. Most women with well-controlled lupus can take birth control pills if they choose. And for most women, lupus won't interfere with becoming pregnant or with pregnancy. But some women with lupus, especially those with active disease, are at higher risk of problems from pregnancy. All women of childbearing age should check with their rheumatologist when they are planning to become pregnant.
Home treatment and regular checkups are sometimes enough for managing mild lupus or for periods of remission. Be sure to have regular checkups. These checks are important to help find and treat progressive organ damage.
It is important that the people in your life understand what lupus is, how it affects your life, and how you can best cope with it. Help them understand your limitations and needs when your symptoms flare. Support groups are great places to learn coping strategies from others.