Coping with LUPUS
Successfully managing lupus starts with awareness: awareness of your particular symptoms and how your illness affects you; awareness of what you can do to prevent flares and what to do if you do experience a flare; awareness of any changes in symptoms or physical conditions that could suggest disease activity; awareness of the tension and stress that often accompany chronic illness; and awareness of the best coping strategies and techniques to reduce that stress.
But awareness by itself isn’t the complete solution. You will want to use the awareness to plan and to act in ways that limit or avoid the burdens, discomforts, and difficulties that lupus can cause, so that the illness does not stop you from doing the things you enjoy in life. There are also a number of lifestyle adjustments you can make to help keep the physical symptoms of lupus under control.
AN OVERVIEW OF LUPUS
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. With lupus, something goes wrong in your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses. With lupus, your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues and creates autoantibodies (“auto” means “self”) that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
Lupus is a disease of remission, when symptoms are not active, and flare, when symptoms are more active. Most people with lupus take several medicines to help control the symptoms of the disease. Sometimes, though, a flare of the disease occurs and other combinations of medicines will have to be used.
Many people have lupus that does not involve major organs of the body can look forward to a normal lifespan with a good quality of life overall, especially if they:
•follow the instructions of their physician
•take their medicine as prescribed
•know when to seek help for side effects of their medications
or for a new symptom that might be related to their lupus
Excerpts from Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. Patient Education Series
COPING WITH LUPUS