Lupus is a lifelong condition that can affect nearly every part of your body. Because people with lupus can have such a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, it can be challenging to diagnose.
Lupus symptoms can come and go. When you have them, doctors call it a “flare.” Common symptoms like fatigue, fever, stress, joint pain, and others can affect your overall quality of life.
There’s no cure for lupus. This makes living with it a challenge. But with a proper treatment plan to minimize flares and with certain lifestyle changes, it’s possible to manage symptoms and take care of yourself. In fact, more than 90% of people with lupus live normal, healthy lives. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Tips for Everyday Living With Lupus
Lupus symptoms vary from person to person. According to research, genetics may play a large role in the severity of your condition. Whether your lupus symptoms are mild or severe, learning how to control your daily challenges is key. Here are some steps you can take to keep the flares at bay.
Learn everything you can about lupus. This condition affects everyone differently. The more you know about it, the easier it will be for you to predict a flare. Knowledge will also help to pinpoint what triggers your flares or makes your symptoms worse. You can also learn to spot the warning signs before a possible flare. This will help you adjust your lifestyle accordingly to minimize symptoms, find appropriate treatment options, and keep it under control.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with lupus, it may be overwhelming. Prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor before an appointment. Keep a diary to note any new symptoms. You may also ask for recommendations for reliable resources on lupus to get the facts and read the latest research.
Pay attention to triggers. Many things can trigger a flare-up. For example, for some people, too much sunlight may trigger symptoms or worsen them while stress, exhaustion, or an infection may make lupus worse for some others. Moreover, most lupus flares come with clear warning signs. You may tend to feel more tired or notice a new rash. Other symptoms like fever or pain may get worse.
Learning to spot the patterns and signs can help you prepare for a flare and potentially shorten how long it lasts. If sun exposure makes your lupus worse, you can wear a hat, sunscreen, or protective clothing. If stress triggers your flare-up, make time to relax. Cut back on some of your tasks, or practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and breathing.
Common lupus triggers include:
- Lack of sleep
- Sun exposure
- Fluorescent or halogen lights
- Stopping your lupus medicines
- Other lupus drugs
Follow a healthy diet. Depending on your lupus symptoms and specific treatment plan, you may have to make some changes to your diet to keep it under control. If your lupus causes you to develop hyperlipidemia, a type of condition where you have high levels of fat in your blood, your doctor may advise you to cut back on fatty foods to control symptoms
Certain medications like steroids may make you gain weight. In this case, it’s best to stick to a low-calorie diet. If you avoid sun exposure to limit flare-ups, you may have vitamin D deficiency. Your doctor may suggest taking oral supplements to keep your levels in check.
In general, eating a well-balanced meal with whole grains, proteins, fruits, and vegetables regularly can boost your energy levels. You may also want to try an anti-inflammatory diet, which includes plenty of fish and olive oil. But before you cut out something, try new supplements, or start a new diet, talk to your doctor about it.
Stay active. Stress, joint pain, and fatigue are common lupus symptoms. While rest is essential, moving your body regularly releases “feel good” hormones called endorphins. This can boost your mood and keep your stressors in check. Physical exercise can also lessen joint pain and prevent stiffness in the body.
Try low-impact exercises like walking, biking, yoga, and swimming. If you’re new to exercise, start slow and work your way up over time.
Make sleep a priority. Fatigue is one of the most common lupus symptoms that may affect your day-to-day quality of life. Lack of sleep can cause inflammation in the body and make your pain, stress, or fatigue worse. To keep your energy levels in check, make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep each night.
During the day, if necessary, nap to rest and recover.
Stress management is key. When you’re under stress, your immune system may not work properly, and this may trigger a lupus flare-up. To keep your everyday stress under control, you should:
- Plan your tasks and day ahead of time. Tackle important things first while you have the energy.
- If you have too much on your plate, ask for help.
- Schedule breaks and make time for relaxing activities.
- Cancel plans to put your health first, if necessary.
Build a support network. Lupus can take a significant physical and mental toll on your life and relationships. It’s important to build a support system you can rely on and reach for support. Join a lupus support group that you can attend in-person or virtually. This will give you an opportunity to connect with others who live with similar symptoms, share tips, or ask for advice.
Make sure to go to follow-up appointments with your rheumatologist and doctor for regular tests to keep your lupus symptoms in check. If you’re struggling to manage your day-to-day life with lupus, bring up your concerns to your rheumatologist, doctor, or a licensed therapist or counselor. They may be able to offer alternative strategies or come with a treatment plan that works best for you.