Living with a chronic condition is never easy; however, there are many that are common enough that explaining them to others is simple. Other chronic conditions that are less common or simply less talked about can be confusing for those who don’t know anything about them. Lupus is one such condition. Lupus affects approximately 5 million people in the world and while that may seem like a large number, it is actually just a small percentage of the 7.7 billion people on the planet. That being said, there is still not much widely known about lupus and how it affects the human body.
What Is Lupus?
Lupus is classified as an autoimmune disease. It causes the body’s immune system to attack the brain, skin, joints, blood cells, lungs, heart, and other organs. There are many autoimmune diseases in the world, Lupus just happens to be one that is harder to diagnose. Unfortunately, there is also no cure for lupus, but some lifestyle changes can improve a person’s quality of life. Steroids and anti-inflammatory medications are also commonly used to help treat the symptoms and side effects of lupus.
Symptoms of Lupus
The symptoms Lupus triggers in the body can vary from person to person. Typically, they are fever, skin rashes, pain in the joints, and fatigue. These symptoms can manifest in small flare-ups or full-blown debilitating attacks. In most cases, they will flare, worsen, and then improve before becoming dormant again. Lupus can strike anyone regardless of age, race, or gender; however, women who are of childbearing age are the most afflicted. In fact, 90% of those diagnosed with lupus are women.
Living With Lupus
Learning to live with lupus is a challenging endeavor. Even being diagnosed correctly can often take several years and many visits to various specialists. Many symptoms are similar to common ailments that can make it hard to pinpoint lupus as the cause. However, once you are diagnosed, it is important to learn how to change your life to accommodate the side effects of the disease. Living with lupus is often much more challenging than living with other types of chronic illnesses.
An active flare-up can cause fatigue that is so pervasive even completing normal tasks like brushing your hair or making a meal seem impossible. Joint stiffness and constant pain are also common side effects of the disease. Even young lupus sufferers will face flare-ups that cause their legs, arms, and even fingers to become too painful to make even the slightest of movements. Skin sensitivity and rashes are also common in those suffering from lupus. Redness and rashes can appear anywhere on the body and even simple fabrics brushing on these areas can cause excruciating discomfort.
One aspect of lupus that is often overlooked is the mental effects the disease carries with it. Often those suffering from lupus will experience episodes of confusion that can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Depression is another common symptom that is caused by the disease. Flare-ups can cause depression to worsen, which in itself requires vigilant and dedicated care.
What Are Lupus Flare-Ups Like?
Lupus most commonly causes inflammation in the body. While lupus symptoms may vary from person to person, or even from one flare-up to the next, inflammation is a common factor. Lupus has no cure, as a result, it will always be in the body. Lifestyle changes, medication, and meditation can help reduce the severity and frequency of serious side effects. A flare-up is when the symptoms of lupus become markedly worse. These flare-ups can last a few hours or even a few months depending on the person. While general achiness, stiffness, skin irritation, and fatigue may always be present, a flare-up will cause them to become exponentially worse.
Sometimes serious flare-ups can cause organ damage or even allow secondary illnesses or infections to attack the body. Stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and even physical exertion can trigger a lupus flare-up. Regular seasonal illnesses can also cause a person to have a lupus flare, or for their inactive symptoms to become activated. While most flare-ups can be managed or even avoided with lifestyle changes, sometimes they still occur even without a trigger.
Teaching Others About The Effects of Lupus
The majority of symptoms and side effects caused by lupus are invisible. A person may seem healthy on the outside, but actually, be suffering from serious bouts of pain and fatigue. The lack of visibility makes it hard for others to know when a flare-up is active, or even how a person is feeling when they are sick. It is important to communicate your needs and your health status to those around you, especially when you are having a flare-up. Lupus has a real effect on relationships, work, and even educational commitments. Talking to those around you about the disease will help lighten the burden and help you to live a more fulfilling life.
Lupus ebbs and flows, some of the symptoms are manageable, but some are also life-threatening. When telling those you love about lupus, it is important they understand that it is not contagious and it is nothing like cancer. The best way to describe it is as a chronic autoimmune disease that is incurable with a range of unpredictable symptoms. Arming people with knowledge is the best way to help them understand what you are going through during a flare-up.
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