Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system begins to attack your own organs. Symptoms of this disease can include fever, joint pain, sensitivity to the sun, and a butterfly-shaped rash on the face. It can be tricky for physicians to diagnose lupus, as this disease shares so many symptoms with other medical conditions. Once your doctor has diagnosed you with lupus, you will want to take care to avoid any triggers that can cause painful flareups of inflammation, fever, fatigue, and joint pain.
12. Keep Your Doctor Appointments
One way to prevent painful flares of lupus symptoms is to visit your doctor at regular intervals. Since lupus can affect multiple organs, you may have several physicians treating you for different aspects of this disease. The Lupus Foundation of America advises preparing in advance to make the most of your time with your doctor. Bring a list of your current medications, and a list of any new symptoms. Carry a pen and paper for jotting down notes. Don’t be afraid to actively participate in your care by asking questions and making sure you understand your course of treatment.
11. Get Enough Sleep
Exhaustion can be a trigger for painful lupus flares. Your body needs rest in order for proper immune function. Studies show that adequate sleep is critical for good immune function, while sleep deprivation can trigger the body to release inflammatory cytokines. Different people require different amounts of sleep. However, eight to ten hours per night is a good goal for most adults. If you have difficulty falling asleep, set the stage for a good night of rest by dimming the lights and engaging in quiet activities before bedtime.
10. Protect Yourself from the Sun
UV rays from the sun are damaging to body cells. When you have lupus, your body isn’t able to efficiently clear damaged cells from your system. As these cells linger in your body, they can cause an immune reaction, including inflammation, rash, joint pain, and exhaustion. To protect your body from the sun’s rays, avoid being outside in direct sunlight during peak hours of sunshine. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, sun protective clothing, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat when outside. Furthermore, you can purchase window shades that prevent ultraviolet rays from streaming in through your windows.
9. Avoid Fluorescent Lights
Sunlight isn’t the only light source that is linked to lupus flareups. Halogen, incandescent, and fluorescent light bulbs also emit harmful UV rays that can trigger lupus symptoms. If you spend time indoors to avoid the damaging rays of the sun, you may be spending long periods of time exposed to these indoor light rays. Companies like Vista Bright make products such as NaturaLux Light Filters, which can be used with your light bulbs to block UV light. Tube filters and shop light covers are also available, which you can use to protect yourself from UV light from fluorescent bulbs.
8. Take Your Medicine
Since lupus can affect many of the organs of your body, there are a wide variety of medications you may be taking to treat your disease. It is critical to work closely with your doctor when beginning any new medications or when discontinuing any current medications. Take all of your medications as prescribed. Additionally, there are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that can trigger lupus flares. Certain antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and antibiotics are linked to lupus flareups, so discuss these medications with your physician before using them.
7. Consider Vitamin D Supplementation
A lack of sunshine can lead to a lack of vitamin D. This is one reason why lupus patients tend to be low in vitamin D. However, the Vitamin D Council reports that some evidence suggests that low levels of vitamin D may trigger lupus in a vicious cycle of low vitamin D and lupus flareups. A study in Autoimmunity Highlights reports that while further studies are needed, vitamin D may both be a result of lupus and a cause of the disease. It may be helpful to discuss vitamin D supplementation with your physician if you suffer from lupus.
6. Avoid Stress
Taking steps to avoid stress or to learn better coping mechanisms for stressful situations may help to prevent lupus flareups. A Swedish study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that individuals who suffer from stress-related disorders have a higher risk of experiencing an immune disease later on. Exercise is one way to relieve stress and release the natural endorphins that help you cope with difficult situations. Prayer, meditation, and time with friends can provide outlets to help you relax, focus your mind, and share your struggles.
5. Watch Out for Infections
No one enjoys coming down with a cold, flu, or bacterial infection. However, for lupus patients, an infection is not just miserable in and of itself, as an infection can also trigger an aggravating lupus flareup. When you suffer from lupus, your body may have difficulty turning off the immune response that is triggered by a viral or bacterial infection. During cold and flu season, avoid highly populated areas where you can pick up an infection. Be sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
4. Avoid Toxic Chemicals
Environmental pollutants can also trigger episodes of increased inflammation and flareups of SLE symptoms. Studies suggest that several autoimmune diseases may be linked to pollutants in the air or in the workplace. These triggers can be found in the workplace of those who work with chemical irritants or toxins such as silica, pesticides, or heavy metals. Other autoimmune diseases linked to environmental pollutants include Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, and polymyositis.
3. Be Aware of the Air Quality
Air pollutants can also cause flareups of lupus symptoms. If you live in an area where air pollution is of concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends paying attention to the air quality index for your area. Stay indoors and avoid heavy exercise or exertion when the air quality is at unhealthy or dangerous levels. According to the EPA, air quality is calculated based on the presence of four types of air pollution. These pollutants include particulate matter, ground level ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.
2. Avoid Certain Foods
Foods may also cause painful bouts of SLE flareups. According to the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center, garlic can trigger lupus flares due to the presence of three ingredients. These components are allicin, ajoene, and thiosulfinates. These natural chemicals can stimulate your immune system. While that may not be a negative side effect for most people, overstimulation of the immune system in those with lupus may result in painful episodes of fever, rash, pain, and inflammation.
1. Listen to Your Body
When you suffer from lupus, it is essential to pay attention to your body and listen to the cues it provides you regarding your health. If you sense an impending flare of lupus symptoms, seek to provide your body with plenty of rest. Employ relaxation techniques to decrease the symptoms of stress that may worsen your symptoms. Notify your doctor when you notice signs of fatigue, joint pain, swelling, fever, mouth sores, or any other symptoms. Have a treatment plan in place so you will know how to best care for yourself during an attack of lupus symptoms.