Tips for Managing Your Lupus This Summer

It’s no secret that exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damages your skin. UVA rays are more strongly associated with sunburns and skin cancer, while UVB rays also damage skin and raise your risk for skin cancer. 

If you have the autoimmune disease lupus, though, you have extra reason to block both types of UV rays from your skin: They trigger lupus flares.

Our expert rheumatologists at Rheumatology Center of New Jersey want you to stay flare-free this summer. But they also know that if you’re deficient in Vitamin D — a hormone that your body creates when exposed to sunlight — you’re more likely to have lupus. 

Following are some tips on how to protect yourself from UV damage and flares while still getting the vitamin D you need to keep your immune system strong this summer.

Always wear sunscreen

Of course, now that summer’s in full force, you need to be extra diligent with sunscreen to avoid sunburns and flares. But if you have lupus, you have to protect your skin against UVA and UVB rays year-round, even when you’re indoors. 

Why? You have to protect yourself from the UVA rays emitted by fluorescent and halogen lights, typically found in offices and stores.

At Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, we recommend wearing sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and that offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. 

You need about 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to adequately protect your entire body if you’re an adult. If you’re outdoors, don’t neglect sun-exposed areas such as:

Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you’re outdoors and after you’ve sweated, been swimming, or wiped yourself with a towel. 

You’re made for the shade

Sunscreen alone isn’t enough to protect your skin and your system from lupus flares. Heat can trigger a flare, too. 

If you must be outdoors (with sunscreen, of course), head for the shade of a tree or a picnic umbrella. Whenever possible, you should also wear:

You should also avoid peak outdoor sunlight hours, between 10am and 4pm.

Take a vitamin D supplement

Lupus affects your skin, your organs, and even your brain. Vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with lupus. 

Both lupus and vitamin D deficiency tend to be more prevalent in African Americans and other people with dark skin tones, which blocks the sunlight your body needs to manufacture vitamin D. 

Because sunlight is a flare trigger, you shouldn’t try to get your vitamin D by exposing your skin to UVA and UVB rays without the benefit of sunscreen. Instead, we recommend taking a vitamin D supplement. 

We give you a blood test to determine your current vitamin D levels, then prescribe a supplement based on those values.

If you’re deficient in vitamin D, you may need to start at a high dose, such as a weekly 50,000 IU capsule of vitamin D2 for eight weeks, followed by 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. 

We check your levels again after three months and make adjustments based on your new values. 

If you’re worried about your vitamin D levels or have a lupus flare, contact us right away. Call our nearest location or request an appointment using our online tool. We have offices in Somerville, Flemington, and Monroe, New Jersey. We offer telemedicine appointments, too.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Is This What's Causing Your Inflammation?

You’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that’s left you with inflammation throughout your body. Although the actual causes of autoimmune diseases are often unknown, we do know what triggers — and subdues — inflammation.

Reduce Your Risk of Fractures with Prolia

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may wonder how to increase your bone density and reduce your risk of fractures. If you take calcium and vitamin D and exercise every day, is that enough? Or is there something else you can do?

5 Things That Put You at Risk for Lupus

Whether lupus runs in your family or you know somebody who has it, you may wonder, “Am I next?” Although nobody knows exactly what causes lupus, certain factors put you at increased risk for developing this autoimmune disease.

What to Expect During Your Bone Scan

If you’re ready for your first bone scan, you may wonder what’s involved. Will it hurt? Does it take a long time? Do you have to prepare ahead of time? A bone scan is an essential part of keeping tabs on your health as you age. Here’s what to expect.

The Link Between Sun Sensitivity and Lupus

If you have lupus, chances are you’re extra sensitive to the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. While everyone should limit their UVA and UVB exposure to minimize skin cancer risk, when you have lupus, the stakes are even higher.

Is Arthritis Hereditary?

You love family gatherings for the good food, good vibes, and all the memories you share and make. But you’ve noticed something: A lot of your older relatives have arthritis. Their gnarled fingers and hobbling gaits worry you. Are you next?