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Understanding the autoimmune disease lupus and an introduction to lifestyle changes

99323043 - systemic lupus erythematosusThe symptoms of the autoimmune disease called lupus may come on slowly, or they could appear rather suddenly. Lupus can affect various areas of the body, including the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and central nervous system. Depending on what area lupus affects, you could have different symptoms. Since everyone’s experience is different, and lupus can affect different areas of the body, the symptoms can vary significantly.

There are some common symptoms you’ll see with this autoimmune disease, including: fatigue, fever, a butterfly shaped rash on the face (over cheeks and nose bridge), pain and stiffness in joints, skin lesions, chest pain, memory loss, and headaches. Sometimes people also have what is called Raynaud’s Phenomenon. This is when the fingers or toes get cold and look blue or white. These are just a few of the potential complications that this autoimmune disease can cause.

Who is at risk?

Women are more prone to developing lupus. It can affect any age, but the most commonly diagnosed are in the 15 to 45 age range. Certain races like Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans are more at risk.

What causes it?

People attribute the cause of lupus to be a mix of genetics and environment. Certain people have a higher likelihood of getting the disease because of genetics. It is believed that when these certain people are exposed to potential triggers, it can bring lupus on. The triggers include sunlight, certain medications, and infections. Lesions on the skin can be triggered by the sun. Certain infections may bring lupus on or cause a flare for those who already have lupus. Medications that treat seizures and high blood pressure could be potential triggers, as well as antibiotics.

What can you do to help manage this autoimmune disease?

Typically, those who are living with lupus can manage the autoimmune disease with some lifestyle changes. Lupus can come and go, which means you may have flares and then have periods of remission. Managing it can help reduce flare ups so you can live a more comfortable life.

The first step is making lupus management a priority. When you’ve accepted that you have an autoimmune disease, you can take action, and make the changes you need to feel better. Take it seriously. The next step, if you smoke, is to quit right away. It can exasperate problems with lupus, while putting you at a greater risk of other complications like cancer and heart disease. You’ll also need to make a commitment to adopt other lifestyle changes.

You need to find an outlet for stress; a way to find relief. Stress can make symptoms and flare ups worse. Exercise is a very accessibly way you can reduce stress and inflammation, since according to trusted sources, “obesity has been linked to increased inflammation.” Choose low impact exercises, ones that aren’t hard on your joints like swimming, walking, and yoga.

Make sure you’re eating food that is heart-healthy. Since this autoimmune disease can affect the heart, it’s important to do what you can to protect it. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Choose lean proteins like fish and poultry rather than red meat.

Another way to promote your health and lower your stress is by getting rest. Aim to get between 7-8 hours each night. Take time during the day to rest, either just taking it easy, take a nap if you need one!

It is also a good idea to reduce the amount of time you spend in the sunshine. If you can avoid going out in the middle of the day when the sun is the strongest, great. If you do go out, make sure you’re wearing sunblock. Choose SPF 50+, or SPF 30 at the very least. Make sure that your sunblock protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. You may want to add a vitamin D supplement to ensure you’re getting enough of this vitamin, since you’ll be limiting your sun exposure.

This autoimmune disease can affect various bodily systems, but there are simple steps you can take to reduce your lupus flares and manage symptoms. Take some of the steps outlined above and see the difference it makes!

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