Ian Delmage: "What is Lupus and How Can We Treat It?"
Presented at the Spring 2012 Lupus SK Symposium.
Lupus is an auto-immune disease that causes the body to “fight” itself and damage healthy tissues. This can affect joints, tendons, skin, organs etc. The main cause of lupus is still not known completely, but many believe it is a combination of factors including genetics, environment, such as sun exposure and stress, as well as bacterial infections and drug/medication exposure.
Anyone can develop lupus however it is more commonly found and diagnosed in females ages 20-45 of all different races. It appears in every patient differently. For some, only part of the body is affected, for others there will be multiple systems involved right from the start. The most common symptoms include swollen or painful joints, fever, fatigue and skin rashes on exposed areas to sunlight (butterfly rash).
Diagnosis for lupus can be very difficult and many times it is only after a physician has looked into many other conditions that lupus is actually diagnosed. There is no single test that can be given to a patient to definitively diagnose them with Lupus so instead it is usually a combination of many tests that leads to the lupus diagnosis. Some medical issues that can lead to a possible diagnosis are the butterfly rash, red patches, photosensitivity, ulcers in the mouth or throat, arthritis in two or more joints, inflammation of the lining of the heart or lungs, kidney problems, seizures/psychosis without other cause, low number of blood cells and antibodies that fight you own cells.
A big part of the treatment of lupus is to help prevent further damage to body and organs. This means stopping the immune attack with auto immune drugs/immunosuppressants such as Azathiprine, Mycophenolate, Methotrexate. For swelling and pain corticosteroids are used to help control inflammation as well as slow down the immune system. NSAIDS (nonsteriodal) are used to relieve joint pain and swelling (eg. Ibuprofen, Celecoxib/Celebrex, and disclofenac, etc.) Antimalarial drugs can also be used to help relieve joint pain, fatigue and rashes (eg. Hydroxychloroquine/Plaquenil and Chloroquine).
There are different types of topical medication used to also help lupus patients. These include steroid creams for rashes/skin issues and antibiotic creams for skin infections and prevention. Moisturizers are used to help prevent skin from cracking and to control excess dryness. Eye drops and ointments are used to control ocular dryness and the usage of oral rinses/mouth pastes for sores.
Outside of medication there are a number of other things that are important to control Lupus long term:
- Omega 3’s help with inflammation, and promote skin/eye dryness in some cases
- Avoid pro-inflammatory foods
- Refined sugar
- Some cooking oils (Choose olive oil or macadamia nut oil)
- Trans fats
- Dairy products (can cause inflammation for some people)
- Red meat/processed foods
- Feed lot meats (choose free range foods)
- Refined grains (choose whole wheat products)
- Food additives
- Do as much as your condition will allow you to do
Get Adequate Rest
- Good sleep habits are very important.
Protect your skin
- Don’t go out in the sun without covering up exposed skin with clothing or SPF
Manage your stress
- Stress = Flare
- Lupus is a chronic condition that is not going to go away. It is very important to have an excellent support group to help you deal with the downs that come along with this condition.