When you’re one of the 1.5 million adults and kids in the United States who have the autoimmune disease lupus, just about every organ and system is affected, from your skin to your brain.
You may experience fatigue that saps your energy, headaches, joint pain, and sensitivity to the sun.
Nevertheless, lifestyle changes and medications help you adjust to your new reality. You can live a rich and full life, while you take steps to reduce the number and severity of lupus flares.
At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, our board-certified rheumatologists are experts at diagnosing and treating lupus at our offices in Monroe, Flemington, and Somerville, New Jersey. They help you come up with a plan to manage your disease and maintain your quality of life.
Do you have lupus? Here are seven tips so you can live well with lupus.
Identify your personal triggers
Your lupus may be different from the next person’s. Every individual’s immune system responds in a unique way to their environment. One of your first tasks, when you have lupus, is to figure out your main triggers and then do your best to avoid them.
You can narrow down your lupus triggers by keeping a journal that tracks your exposures and your symptoms. Changing your lifestyle based on personal triggers may slow the progression of the disease and help you avoid such complications as kidney failure and cognitive problems.
One of the most common triggers for a lupus flare is exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being outside when the sun is highest in the sky, from about 10am to 4pm.
While outdoors, be extra careful with sun protection. In addition to wearing a high-quality, chemical-free, broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or more, try out clothing that has an SPF value, too.
No matter what, wear UV-rated sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors, too. Protect your skin with long sleeves and pants or a skirt.
Avoid UV light indoors
While you may already know to limit your outdoor sun exposure, did you know that some indoor lights also have UV rays? The most common sources of UV exposure inside, rated from highest to lowest, are:
- Fluorescent lights
- Halogen lights
- Incandescent bulbs
Whenever possible, switch your indoor lighting to low-UV LED lights. Or, if that’s not practical, try filters that block both UVA and UVB rays.
A certain amount of stress each day keeps you energized and alert. But when stress is chronic and draining, it has negative effects on lupus. Give yourself breaks throughout your busy days with such strategies as:
- Deep breathing
- Nature walks
- Family and friends time
Exercise lowers your stress levels and boosts your mood. Self-care is more essential than ever when you must manage a disease like lupus.
Protect against pathogens
Get your flu shots and COVID boosters to minimize your risk for catching an infection. You may need to wear a mask in highly populated public places, such as grocery stores.
Don’t delay treatment if you suspect you have a cold, flu, or other illness. See your doctor, get sufficient rest and nutrition, and take whatever medications are necessary to shorten or resolve the illness.
Improve your sleep hygiene
You need a healthy diet and exercise regimen to maintain health. You also need sufficient sleep. You can improve your sleep by adopting habits such as:
- Stop eating several hours before bed
- Keep your bedroom cool
- Use blackout curtains to maintain darkness in your bedroom
- Stop using your tablet and screens one hour before bed
- Don’t drink alcohol near bedtime
- Limit coffee and caffeine to before 2 pm
If you’re not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night, or if you are but still don’t feel rested, let your doctor know. A sleep study can identify conditions that may be robbing your body of rest, such as sleep apnea.
Follow our recommendations
In addition to providing medications that ease the discomfort of disease flares and delay disease progression, we also help you adopt healthy habits to keep your symptoms under control. We recommend that you:
- Quit smoking
- Eat more fresh foods
- Eliminate processed foods
- Move throughout the day
- Exercise regularly
- Take vitamin D and omega-3 supplements
- Minimize alcohol consumption
With a few changes, mindfulness, and help from your rheumatologist, you can live fully and happily with lupus. If you have lupus, contact us today by phone or online form at our office nearest you — in Monroe, Flemington, or Somerville, New Jersey.