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Lupus can strike anyone: Natural interventions may help

Harold Mandel's picture
A healthy salmon and veggies meal

Lupus hits millions of people worldwide and can be a very difficult disease to live with. Young women at the prime of their lives are most often hit with this illness. News that the young and popular pop star, Selena Gomez, who started out her career as a child Disney star, has been diagnosed with lupus, should alert us to the need for more aggressive research into how to prevent and treat lupus, since clearly lupus can hit anyone.

About 1.5 million Americans and millions more across the world are affected by lupus, writes the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation. The actual cause of lupus is not known, but genetics and hormones are thought to play a role. Ninety percent of people affected by lupus are young women. The first signs and symptoms of lupus generally occur between 15 and 44 years old.

About 5,000 to 10,000 of the 1.5 million Americans suffering from lupus are diagnosed while they are under 18 years old. Approximately one in three kids with lupus have a mild disease. However, most have a moderate disease which can be severe at times. This disease usually responds well to treatment.

African American, Latina women, and Native American women are discriminated against by lupus. It has been observed that African-American women are three times more likely than Caucasian women to get lupus and to go on to develop severe symptoms, with as many as 1 in every 250 African American women affected. Also, this disease is two times more common in Asian-American and Latina women than it is in Caucasian women. Native American women are also disproportionately affected by lupus. It has been found that genetic and ethnic factors are more important than socioeconomic ones in influencing lupus disease activity.

Researchers have found African-Americans and Latinas with lupus generally develop the disease earlier in life, experience more intense disease activity such as kidney problems, and, overall, suffer from more complications than Caucasian patients. And Latinas have been found to have a poorer prognosis overall than Caucasian women. Latina sufferers of lupus are more likely to have kidney involvement and damage with a more rapid rate of kidney failure. Latinas also experience a higher level of cardiac disease. In African-Americans there is a higher frequency of neurological problems such as seizures, hemorrhage, and stroke.

It has been suggested that lupus sufferers join a support group. Lupus is an exhausting and unpredictable chronic illness, and so being truly supported is a very powerful feeling that many people with lupus long to experience which can help them cope with this condition. Due to having ups and downs with flares and remissions, lupus can lead to overwhelming feelings of loss along with lack of control. Emotional feelings of anxiety, anger, loneliness and isolation can occur. Lupus sufferers often share that they feel terribly misunderstood by friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

In lupus support groups people with this illness get together at a regular time every week or month to talk with each other. Support groups may place in

1: Homes

2: Clinics

3: Offices

4: Libraries

5: Coffee shops

6: Hospitals

7: Religious institutions

Lupus support groups offer a lot of help, including:

1: A sense of connection. Meeting and talking with other lupus sufferers who understand your feelings and concerns can help you fight the loneliness and isolation associated with this illness, and may actually help improve emotional and physical well-being.

2: Coping skills. Share ideas for dealing with lupus, being prepared for flares, handling finances, and not just surviving but even enjoying life with lupus.

3: Structure. Most support groups meet at regular intervals during the year and can become something lupus sufferers look forward to and rely on.

4: Motivation and hope. Lupus support groups help inspire sufferers to take a meaningful role in your own care and the future you envision for yourself by sharing and listening to others.

5: Information. Lupus support groups help keep sufferers advised of the latest in research, trials, and possibilities for new medications as you hear and share news with others.

6: Friendship. New friends are often made in lupus support groups which can offer a potent tonic for helping to normalize feelings and concerns.

There are a myriad of signs and symptoms associated with lupus, reports The University of Maryland Medical Center, which include:

1: Extreme fatigue

2: Painful or swollen joints (arthritis)

3: Muscle pain and stiffness

4: Unexplained fever

5: Skin rashes, including a characteristic "butterfly" rash over the nose and cheeks

6: Kidney problems

7: Hair loss

8: Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain

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9: Mouth and nose ulcers

10: Headaches, migraine, seizures, stroke

11: Anemia

12: Depression

13: Photosensitivity

Although lupus can't be prevented, you can help prevent flare-ups with many measures, including:

1: Avoid sun exposure

2: Avoid high-dose birth control pills, penicillin, and sulfonamides

3: Exercise regularly

4: Get flu and pneumonia vaccines

Although there is no known cure for lupus health care providers can develop a treatment plan to help prevent flare-ups, to treat them when they do occur, and to help minimize complications. The following medications may be prescribed to help with lupus:

1: Corticosteroids (such as prednisone), to rapidly bring down inflammation.

2: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), to help control pain, swelling, and fever.

3: Drugs which suppress the immune system, to help keep the disease under control and help prevent flares, for severe cases of lupus. These drugs include,

a: Belimumab (Benlysta)

b. Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)

c. Azathioprine (Imuran)

d. Mycophenolate (CellCept)

e. Methotrexate

4: Antimalarial drugs, to help treat fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and inflammation of the lungs.

Intensive steroid treatment sometimes works for lupus writes EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell.

Complementary and alternative therapies may help lupus sufferers immensely. Dietary suggestions include eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lupus sufferers should eat more antioxidant-rich foods, such as green, leafy vegetables, and fruits, such as blueberries, pomegranates, and cherries. Refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar, should be avoided. Less red meat and more lean meats, cold-water fish, or beans for protein, should be eaten. Healthy cooking oils such as olive oil or vegetable oil should be used. Coffee and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco should be avoided. It also a good idea to drink plenty of fluids and exercise moderately at least 30 minutes daily at least 5 days a week.

Drugs which are used to treat lupus may have a profound effect on mood, writes EmaxHealth reporter Armen Hareyan. Due to this and other side effects from drugs various supplements and herbs may be desirable to help with this condition, such as:

1: Flaxseed, which contains omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid, which may help decrease inflammation.

2: Fish oil, which also contains omega-3 fatty acids, may also help lessen inflammation.

3: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). DHEA should be used with a doctor's supervision. DHEA is turned into the hormones estrogen and testosterone in the body. Research shows that it may help improve symptoms of lupus. However, there may be side effects with DHEA.

4: Calcium and vitamin D supplement, if using corticosteroids. Corticosteroids may increase the risk of osteoporosis, and calcium and vitamin D can help keep bones strong.

5: Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) seems to lower overactive immune systems in people with lupus in one study.

6: Tripterygium wilfordii, a Chinese herb, may help suppress the immune system and reduce joint pain and inflammation.

It's always a good idea to discuss any supplements you may decide to take with your health care
provider to decide on the proper dose and to help avoid side effects with any drugs you may be taking.

There is a mixed prognosis for people with lupus. About half of lupus sufferers go into remission and remain in remission for decades. However, 90 percent of people with lupus have some complications. In women, symptoms generally get better after menopause. There is a survival rate of 10 years in ninety percent of people with lupus. About 63 - 75% of people with lupus have a survival rate of 20 years. People with certain complications from lupus tend to have a poorer prognosis.

Lupus has always hit me as being a perplexing disease to deal with due to the unclear nature of the causes, the up and down course of the disease and the myriad of complications which can occur with it. It is really upsetting to see young vibrant women at the prime of their lives hit with lupus, as witnessed with the recent diagnosing of actress Selena Gomez with this disorder. Aggressive efforts at better education about this disorder can help sufferers cope better. I suggest checking out all available natural interventions to make living with lupus easier. I also encourage more investments in lupus research to help conquer this illness.