- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Joint Pain and Lupus: What You Should Know About the Connection
Lupus is a chronic condition in which the body's immune system inaccurately sees muscle, organ, nerve and connective tissues as a threat. It attacks these tissues, causing inflammation in all major systems. This can produce a wide range of symptoms, including fever, tiredness, a distinctive butterfly-shaped rash and skin lesions, as well as sun sensitivity, chest pain, poor circulation and dry eyes. Many people suffer from memory loss, confusion, headaches and joint pain.
What We Know
Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what causes lupus or exactly how it works on the human body. Researchers currently believe that the problem is caused by genetic factors combined with environmental influences. Most people who suffer from lupus have what appears to be an inherited tendency for the disease. Eventually, a combination of outside factors triggers the immune system to attack body tissues inappropriately.
The two most common environmental triggers for lupus include exposure to sunlight and some kinds of medications. It is hard to say how much or how severe sun exposure must be to cause lupus problems, but anyone who has a close relative with the condition should take care. If you are related to someone who has lupus, you should also avoid some types of antibiotics, blood pressure drugs and anti-seizure medicines. Talk to your doctor about medications that can potentially trigger the disease.
Joint Pain and Lupus
About 70 percent of people who suffer from lupus also have to deal with joint pain. The connection between joint pain and lupus is due to the disease's tendency to produce inflammation. Women are more likely to suffer from lupus-related arthritis than men, and most people who have this problem don't suffer from it constantly. Instead, they have joint pain infrequently, with intermittent swelling or no swelling at all. This is one of the chief factors that helps doctors tell the difference between lupus-related joint pain and similar diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The joint pain that comes from lupus can appear in many different kinds of tissues. Sometimes it affects the lining in spaces around the joints, which affects the tendons and cushioning tissues. Sometimes it causes inflammation in muscles, especially those between the neck and elbow or between the hip and knee. Both types of ache can be treated with painkillers, rest and physical therapy.
Mainstream Lupus Treatment
Doctors base their recommended treatment for joint pain and other lupus-related problems on the severity of those symptoms. Because it is not possible to eliminate lupus at the source, most treatments focus on the effects of the disease. These may include over-the-counter pain relievers, medications that are normally used for malaria, and anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids. In severe cases, lupus sufferers may also take immune suppressants, but these can have severe and unpleasant side effects.
Lupus sufferers can seek other treatment options in addition to standard medications and procedures. Many use herbal and nutritional supplements such as green-lipped mussel powder to treat the joint pain and other symptoms often associated with lupus. They can also work to keep stress levels low, since severe stress can trigger immune flare-ups.
Good sleep habits and short, scheduled breaks throughout the day can also assist with lupus treatment, as can other lifestyle factors such as diet and consistent sleep. People with lupus can also avoid sun exposure, limit their contact with potentially-infectious diseases such as the flu, and take hormone treatments, such as DHEA. These alternative therapies have not been proven to fight the source of lupus, but they can make it easier to live with.