How to Treat Lupus
When you have Lupus or any auto-immune disorder, you have choices for treatment. You can visit a doctor, multiple doctors is the most likely scenario, or you can forgo the prescriptions and treat yourself.
Earlier this year I found out that I have – unofficially because the diagnosis didn't come from a rheumatologist – Lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus is an auto-immune disease that attacks pretty much everything in your body. Females are far more likely to develop this disease, though there are men that suffer as well. There is another form of Lupus, Discoid Lupus, that affects the skin. In this article, Lupus refers to SLE, not Discoid.
I researched medications for this and another auto-immune disorder I have, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). When all of my symptoms began, I thought I 'just' had RA due to the pain and swelling of my knuckles in first one, then the other hand. I had most of the classic RA symptoms, then the funny stuff started.
With RA you can have Lupus-like symptoms and with Lupus you can have RA-like symptoms. Confusing, much? Yeah, that's what I thought. The fun part begins when you begin having crazy symptoms that are unlike anything you've seen before.
For example, I'm one of those people that have a high pain tolerance and push myself regularly past the point of exhaustion. The day I was so fatigued that I could barely drag myself out of bed or even lift my fingers to type – I knew it was time to go to the emergency room. Most of the day and a ton of blood tests later, I was informed that I had not only RA, but it looked like a case of Lupus. The doctor had experience with the disease, plus there is a history of it in my family that I wasn't aware of until speaking with my grandmother. The doctor gave me strict orders to “get to a rheumatologist ASAP”, but a move to the country prevented that.
Currently, there are many drugs that are used to treat Lupus. Most are used to reduce pain, reduce other symptoms, and try to prevent flares. Until I need strong intervention, I chose to take a more natural route.
Here's What I Do
B Vitamin Complex – this combination of B vitamins supports a number of functions in the body. Deficiency in any of the B vitamins can cause serious problems in the body. People suffering from Lupus should invest in a good B vitamin complex. I prefer mine in liquid form, it absorbs better than pills or capsules.
Each of the B vitamins are important, but for those of us with this disease, four are essential when treating Lupus symptoms. B2 can help reduce our sensitivity to sunlight, B6 can help manage depression and dermatitis, and B12 is amazing when fighting fatigue. Don't forget B3 – niacin – which will help with 'Lupus fog', mental confusion and forgetfulness.
Potassium- This supplement can help reduce heart palpitations. Be careful, as lowered kidney function can cause high potassium levels. Until you know that you have low or high levels, do not take supplements. Eating a banana a day can keep your levels near normal.
Magnesium – This mineral is important for your teeth. While it helps other functions, when you have Lupus your oral health suffers. I'm working on losing my second tooth, wooo fun! Take a good multi-vitamin that has magnesium or try a single magnesium supplement.
Calcium – Bones and teeth. Women are already susceptible to bone loss, Lupus helps that along. Don't skimp on the calcium.
Kombucha – Believe it or not, Kombucha tea has helped me quite a bit. A friend sent me what we fondly called 'The Booger'. I didn't expect anything, but had always wanted to try Kombucha tea. I was surprised to find that during the time I drank the tea, I had hardly any joint paint and a significant jump in my energy levels. Part of this has to do with the B vitamins found in the tea. A word of warning: Kombucha that is not prepared correctly can make you very ill. Follow the directions and keep it clean. The best Kombucha is made with regular black tea.
PAIN:I use Aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). I use generic brands. Take the lowest dosage that will kill your pain and rotate the type you take during the day. This will reduce the chance of overdosing on any of those. Overdosing on over the counter medication can be just as damaging to your body as overdosing on prescription medication.
I'm not a doctor, nor do I proclaim to be some sort of alternative health guru. My own experience should not be your guide. My reluctance to use prescription medication is based on the fact that many of the drugs include death as a side effect.
I don't hate doctors. I just prefer to rely on the most natural treatments available until I absolutely must turn to medication. There is no cure for Lupus, alternative or in the health care system. Until there is a cure, take the best possible care of your body that you can.
A Final Note
Lupus for many is one of the 'invisible' diseases. No one can see your pain, your fatigue, or mental fog. They may ask you, "Wow, you have all sorts of symptoms" or "Wow, that sure is progressing fast" , while never understanding that it is a fight every single day just to do normal things.
In the space of a few months (January to August 2012) I've had significant increase of symptoms. Yes, this disease can move quickly. You can also experience extended remission. You may not have a rash on your face, you may not have any symptoms other than joint pain or occasional fatigue.
Then again, you could be like me. One day you're feeling awesome and the next day the roof of your mouth feels as if the soft bread you're eat is made of sandpaper. Opening jars becomes something you really do have your husband do. It isn't fun admitting that you need help...some of us refuse to admit that we can't do things and pay the price later.
While every day is a battle, each day that you make it through is a battle won. Regardless of the treatments you choose, you're refusing to quit. The only way you can lose to Lupus is to curl into a ball and die without fighting. I don't give up and I'm hoping that if you are fighting this, you will join me in beating this bi** called Lupus.