What Does Lupus Feel Like?

What Does Lupus Feel Like?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain throughout the body. An autoimmune disease involves the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells, and with lupus, these attacks most prominently affect the skin, joints and internal organs like the kidneys and the heart. It is often mistaken for other diseases and can take years to diagnose because of the wide variety of symptoms. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide have some kind of lupus.

There are four kinds of lupus:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): This is the most common type of lupus, accounting for about 70% of all lupus cases. SLE is what most people are referring to when they talk about the disease. It lives on a spectrum, meaning that symptoms can be mild or severe. This type of lupus involves inflammation of the kidneys, known as lupus nephritis, which affects the body’s ability to filter waste from the blood and may result in a need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. It also causes inflammation of the nervous system and brain, which can cause memory problems, confusion, headaches and strokes. The inflammation of the brain’s blood vessels can also cause high fevers, seizures and behavioral changes. Another symptom that SLE can cause is hardening of the arteries and coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack.
  • Cutaneous lupus: For a person who suffers from this type of lupus, symptoms only affect the skin. One can be diagnosed with cutaneous lupus alone or can develop it alongside SLE. Symptoms include a malar rash that appears on the cheeks, a discoid rash with red patches on the skin, photosensitivity and oral ulcers.
  • Drug-induced lupus: This is a form of lupus that is caused by certain prescription drugs. Symptoms include pain and swelling of the muscles and joints, flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and fever and serositis (inflammation of the serous tissues of the body). The drugs most commonly found to result in drug-induced lupus are the heart medicines hydralazine and procainamide and the tuberculosis medicine isoniazid. Other possibilities include etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab, minocycline and quinidine. It usually takes several months or years of medication use before experiencing symptoms. The symptoms will typically subside around six months after the medications are stopped and will rarely affect major organs.
  • Neonatal lupus: This congenital autoimmune disorder is rare. It affects infants whose mothers have antibodies against Ro/SSA and La/SSB. Symptoms include skin rash, liver problems and low blood cell counts, but they typically disappear around six months after birth and have no lasting effects. In severe cases, infants may experience congenital heart block, a disruption of the nerve impulse system that regulates pumping of the heart.

Living with Lupus

For those living with lupus, symptoms tend to come and go in what is called “flares.” Common triggers for flares include overwork and not getting enough rest, stress, frequent exposure to sun infection, injury and stopping of lupus medicines. There are warning signs that the body will use to communicate that a lupus flare is coming, such as tiredness, pain, rash, stomachache, severe headache and dizziness.

The severity of flares can vary, and as one becomes more accustomed to the way lupus affects their body, one can gain a better understanding of how flares will feel. Mild or moderate flares may simply cause a rash or more joint pain, and severe flares can damage organs in the body, such as the heart and the kidney.

Physical Therapy for Lupus

Due to improved diagnosis and disease management processes, around 80-90% of people living with lupus can expect a normal lifespan. Lupus medications can help to lower long-term risks and manage symptoms. Drugs that are commonly used to treat lupus include NSAIDs, corticosteroids and other immune system-suppressing drugs, hydroxychloroquine and Benlysta.

Physical therapy can be beneficial in helping the body fight primary symptoms of lupus, such as joint pain and arthritis. ProFysio takes the conditions of the individual, like lupus, into account when providing individualized, collaborative care to help our patients heal. The goal of physical therapy in managing lupus will be to restore, maintain and promote musculoskeletal fitness and health.

In a collaborative effort, we will examine your medical history, physical abilities and goals together in order to create a treatment plan that focuses on improving your strength, balance, coordination and endurance. When our state-of-the-art technology meets the clinical excellence of a team that truly cares, your health and lupus management will be in good hands.

If you think you could benefit from our top quality physical therapy, call us at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online to set up a free consultation today!

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