Healthy Living

Lupus Progression and Treatment

Lupus Progression and Treatment

Key Takeaways

  • The progression of lupus varies from one person to the next.
  • A flare-up is a stage in which you experience the symptoms of the disease.
  • There is no cure for lupus, but there are plenty of treatment options available to decrease the symptoms. It is also possible for the disease to diminish on its own, and you can go into remission.

The progression of lupus varies from one person to the next. It doesn't matter whether you have the same genes as another person with the disease or live in the same environment - it is unpredictable. To make matters even more unpredictable, the symptoms of lupus come and go. Lupus may even develop so slowly that you may be unable to detect the symptoms. On the other hand, it might progress rather faster. Here is the story of a girl named Sara, who was diagnosed with lupus as a young teen.

"Why me", Sara asked the doctor after her lupus diagnosis came back positive. Like many other patients, it remains a paradox. She was only 15 years old and full of life and dreams. Experts say that lupus is triggered by sunlight, infections or the drugs we take. But being a woman puts you at greater risk of developing the illness. Moreover, it mostly affects people between 15 to 40 years of age, even though children and older adults can get it as well.

How lupus progresses

Sara typically leads a near-normal life. She develops flare-ups once every few years. She becomes anemic, gets exhausted and develops fevers during these times. The symptoms worsen during winter, and when she does simple things, even just the house chores, she remains in pain for a few hours afterwards.

Sarah noticed changes in her hands, they became sausage-like and swollen. Furthermore, her hands changed colors and went numb. She kept indoors for a while until a friend knocked at her door. It became extremely difficult to work, so she decided to visit a doctor. It took about a year or two before she got a definite diagnosis. It may take many years for an accurate diagnosis of lupus.

Lupus flare-ups

A flare-up is a stage in which you start to experience lupus symptoms. You may lead a normal life depending on the severity of your disease, especially when there are little flare-ups. Sometimes, lupus does not affect the vital organs like the kidneys, and if these organs are not affected or mildly affected, you will be just fine. Some people get flares only every 10 years and go in the quiescent state for the rest of time. Unfortunately, lupus can remain in a chronic state of activity in some people, while in others it can flare and become inactive (quiescent). Surprisingly enough, the progression of lupus may not occur regularly in ones’ life, and the patient goes into a situation called remission. Overall, remission refers to a situation in which all or most of your symptoms are gone and the objective tests, for instance blood work, is normal. During the remission period, Sara's symptoms are under control.

The first 5 years post lupus diagnosis

In the first five years after diagnosis, patients and doctors are uncertain. You may wonder why. This is because it is not easy to find the best course of treatment for symptoms that an individual presents. So, what's going on? You need to be watchful of any new problems and signs of a flare-up.

Simple health guidelines for post lupus diagnosis:

  • Take the medicine as prescribed by your doctor. Be positive in life. Continue to be grounded, motivated and stay calm. You can still follow your dreams, and remember that they are still valid.
  • Remember to describe all new symptoms to your doctor on time and that you are not a bother to them. All they need is that information from you. Be in constant communication with your doctor. Report anything that affects you, including your worries and anxieties.
  • Consider eating a balanced diet. Some foods may cause flare-ups such as gluten, which is difficult to digest. Limit red meat, processed and creamy food. Added sugar over stimulates the immune system.
  • Consider getting adequate rest and exercise. Certain legumes such as alfalfa seeds and soybeans may also trigger negative reactions in some patients.
  • Communicate with your employer and family members. Inform them of what you are incapable of doing and what they can do to support your situation.
  • Cut back your activity levels if the symptoms flare or at least change the way you perform your tasks. You might as well take some time off work.
  • Drink plenty of water, herbal and green tea. Include foods such as avocado, nuts (walnuts, flax, almond, chia), coconut and olive oils, cucumbers and melon in your diet.

Alternative medicine

Unconventional remedies to treat lupus may include:

  • Nutritional supplements, like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), fish oil, or vitamin D
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Chiropractic treatments

Types of lupus treatment

There is no cure for lupus. But just keep reading, and we’ll share with you medication options that lessen the pain, and lower the risk of organ and tissue damage. Treatment varies because of the way the disease exhibits itself in different people. But even the same patient can receive different treatment regimens in their lifetimes. Be sure to understand the medicine you take, the risks involved, and the benefits you will get while remembering the restrictions associated with the meds. Take prescriptions as directed by your doctor and report any side effects on your next visit.

NSADs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

NSADs are a medication class that relieves some lupus symptoms.  These drugs act by reducing the stiffness and discomfort orchestrated by inflammation of joints, muscles and other body tissues. You can stack these with other medications or use them alone. Although, you have some NSADs medications in over the counter form, talk to your doctor before taking them. Typical examples in the market are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), meloxicam (Mobic), etodolac (Lodine), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and celecoxib (Celebrex).

NSADs side effects: NSADs can cause high blood pressure, stomach upset, and they can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. They may also affect blood platelets that assist your blood in clotting normally.

Anti-Malarial drugs

An anti-malarial drug controls lupus in some patients long-term. This requires the patient to be on these drugs for the rest of their lives, and an example is Plaquenil. Side effects associated with the drugs include loss of appetite, retinal damage, dry skin, stomach upset and bloating.

Steroids synthetic cortisone

Cortisone works quickly to suppress inflammation associated with lupus such as swelling, tenderness, warmth and pain. However, it is prescribed when NSADs and Anti-Malarial fail to control lupus. Side effects may include insomnia and depression. In some cases weight gain, hair growth and fragile skin may occur. Long-term use increases the risk of infection.

Immunosuppressant drugs

These drugs helps in suppressing the immune system and are used to treat autoimmune disease such as lupus.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)

DHEA is a mild male hormone that helps lupus patients build up bones and muscle strength, lift their immune systems, decrease hair loss and memory loss, and give them much-needed energy.

Closing thoughts

The best relief for lupus is not being hard on yourself. Showing yourself kindness physically, emotionally and spiritually influences your future life. But, that's the key to all survival and healthy living. You are probably wondering if you will get a regular job, have a family, have energy and more. Remember that lupus presents itself differently in people. Eat well, protect yourself from sunlight, and focus on things you can control. Stay positive! Look into support groups for additional support and information, and it will definitely do you good.