Patients who are diagnosed with lupus are impacted both physically and emotionally. Learning to live with this chronic disease can be a challenge, and it is important to understand that although it is normal to be anxious about a lupus diagnosis, there are many steps you can take to manage symptoms and reduce the impact of lupus on your life.
With the right tools, support, and education, you can ultimately lead a positive and productive life with lupus.
Primary Challenges For Lupus Patients
There are many physical effects of lupus, including those triggered by treatment and medication. Corticosteroids, which are often prescribed to treat lupus, can cause visible weight gain. Patients may also suffer from various rashes, like the butterfly-shaped face rash that is considered a telltale sign of lupus.
Another complication of lupus is Raynaud’s Syndrome. Raynaud’s causes your extremities, especially the hands, to become abnormally cold due to decreased blood flow. This can cause the skin of your fingers, toes, and hands to turn white or blue.
Visible symptoms of lupus can cause insecurity, self-esteem issues and depression, but skin conditions and weight gain are not the only challenges that patients face. You may also experience pain or fatigue. Learning to live with chronic symptoms like pain and fatigue can seriously impact a person’s state of mind, leading to frustration and even feelings of hopelessness. Pain can also lead to difficulty sleeping, creating a fatigue cycle that can make completing daily tasks challenging.
Patients with lupus may experience periods of time when they face physical limitations that impact their work or daily activities. Extreme fatigue or pain may make it difficult to go about your normal routine, or even to get out of bed.
This can inhibit your ability to keep up your normal pace at work, and may even affect the ability to participate in hobbies that you love. These physical limitations can cause anxiety and depression. They also have the ability to impact patients financially, especially in severe cases which result in reduced hours at work or leaving the workforce altogether.
In some cases, lupus can lead to social isolation. This occurs when patients are unable to go out regularly to visit with friends and family. In addition to physical limitations, it may feel too burdensome to explain the details of lupus to your social circle.
This social isolation is more common during a flare-up, when energy levels drop to a critical level and you may feel too weak to attend your regular social activities. If you are not able to work, you may feel as though you have lost your sense of purpose.
The uncertainty of knowing when a flare-up will occur may also increase anxiety levels. Unfortunately, increased stress levels can also exacerbate flare-ups and symptoms, so it creates a cycle that is difficult to escape.
If you experience these symptoms, it is imperative to speak to someone who can provide you with more information on anxiety and depression. They can give your strategies that will help you cope with having a chronic condition.
Techniques for Coping With Lupus
Become More Active
People who suffer from lupus often feel very good when doing low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or aerobics. This can help to reduce muscle stiffness, boost muscular strength, and prevent osteoporosis. Exercise also relieves stress and protects the heart and cardiovascular system.
Smoking is bad for your overall health, regardless of whether or not you have lupus. However, for those who do have lupus, smoking has been known to decrease calcium levels and reduce heart rate. Quitting is always the best option.
Get Enough Rest
It is important to try to sleep between seven and eight hours per night, because lupus reduces your energy levels dramatically. If you find it difficult to fall asleep at night, there are several steps you can take. These include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, keeping electronics out of the bedroom, and trying to avoid physical activity or eating too close to bedtime.
Avoid the Sun and Even Indoor Fluorescent Lighting
Photosensitivity is common in lupus patients, and may exacerbate symptoms. In many cases, photosensitivity is what triggers the onset of lupus. You should always wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, and the package should specify that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Indoor fluorescent lighting can also give off potentially harmful UV rays, so make sure to limit your exposure whenever possible.