Good self-care is essential to managing lupus. Learn to recognize your body's warning signs of a flare. Warning signs may include increased fatigue, joint pain, rash, or fever. When you notice any of these signs, take steps to control your symptoms.
Dealing with stress and fatigue
Stress may trigger lupus symptoms. Keep your stress level as low as you can.
- Keep your daily schedule as simple as possible.
- Keep your list of obligations to others to a bare minimum.
- Delegate to others.
- Exercise regularly. A daily walk, for example, can reduce stress, clear your head, improve your mood, and help fight fatigue.
- Use relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and guided imagery to calm your body and mind.
- Get plenty of rest. Some people with lupus need up to 12 hours of sleep every night.
- Pace yourself. Limit tiring activities.
- Ask others for help. Don't try to do everything yourself.
- Take short breaks from your usual daily activities. Consider cutting down on work hours or getting help with parenting responsibilities, at least during periods when lupus symptoms are severe.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity boosts energy and helps you stay in good condition. Walking and swimming are good forms of exercise for people with lupus.
- If you suspect that depression is contributing to your fatigue, get prompt treatment from your doctor, a mental health professional, or both.
Taking care of your skin and health
Take care of your skin. Ask your doctor about the use of corticosteroid creams to relieve skin symptoms that are particularly troublesome. If you are bothered by the way a lupus rash looks on your face or if you have scars from lupus, you can try makeup, such as Covermark, to cover the rash or scars.
Ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) light triggers disease flares in most people who have lupus. Exposure to ultraviolet light, as from sunlight, can trigger or start skin rash, joint pain, or fatigue, or it can make these symptoms worse. To minimize your exposure to ultraviolet light:
- Avoid the sun. If you must be in the sun, cover your arms and legs, wear a hat, and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen (covering both UVA and UVB rays) with a high sun protection factor (50 SPF or higher) to protect your skin. Reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Experiment with sunscreens. Some may irritate your skin or wash off too easily.
- Avoid going out when the sun's rays are the strongest. In most areas, this is between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., especially during the summer.
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.