Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), also known as lupus, is a chronic disease. This means that it cannot be cured and requires life-long treatment. Fortunately, the condition can be managed with correct treatment. This includes both lifestyle modifications and medication.
Sun protection — It is important to protect yourself from the sun, due to the photosensitive nature of lupus. This includes wearing sunscreen and avoiding direct sun exposure when possible.
Diet and nutrition — Most people with lupus do not require a special diet but should instead eat a well-balanced diet. However, you may need to make changes to your diet depending upon how lupus has affected your body. In general:
- Glucocorticoids (e.g. prednisone), which are often used to treat lupus, increase appetite. Be vigilant of this.
- If you have swelling (edema) in your feet or lower legs, decrease the amount of salt and sodium in your diet.
- Alcohol can interact with medications used to treat lupus. Keep this in mind and use alcohol responsibly.
Exercise — It can be challenging to exercise when your lupus causes fatigue and other symptoms (such as breathing problems). Being inactive can cause you to lose muscle strength - which can make you feel worse in the long term. Even just short periods of gentle movement can help. This is important as it will help you to keep your heart and lungs as healthy as possible. There are multiple benefits of exercise and you should aim to make regular activity a priority. You can ask for help from your doctor if this is something that you struggle with.
Medication therapy — Several different medications are used in the treatment of lupus. The choice of medications for lupus is highly individualized and guided by which organs are affected as well as how severe your symptoms are. These are some of the drugs that may used to treat lupus:
- Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine — Most people with lupus are treated with daily hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, unless these medications are otherwise contraindicated
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — NSAIDs can relieve joint pain and swelling
- Glucocorticoids and immunosuppressants — these help to decrease severe inflammation
These medications can cause side effects. If you think you are experiencing side effects, consult with your doctor. Do not stop using your medication unless it has been recommended by your doctor. If you need help with sticking to your treatment plan, contact your doctor or care coach.
Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window
References: Fortuna G, Brennan MT. Systemic lupus erythematosus: epidemiology, pathophysiology, manifestations, and management. Dent Clin North Am. 2013 Oct;57(4):631-55