You form antibodies or lymphocytes that attack your tissues; you destroy yourselves. LUPUS, a family of autoimmune conditions, ravages your body, especially systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Your immune system, which normally works to protect you from illness, mutates into a devouring, cannibalistic animal intent on destroying your body. The potential for this destruction hides in your deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA contains the molecular basis of your heredity and is localized in your cell nuclei.
LUPUS can attack any system of your body. When this occurs the doctor that you will become familiar with is a Rheumatologist. This type of specially trained physician deals with acute diseases that are characterized by fever, inflammation and pain in and around the joints, and by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the heart and the heart valves.
Being diagnosed with LUPUS often sets you up to be diagnosed for other chronic diseases in the autoimmune spectrum; conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, cataracts, glaucoma and interstitial lung disease (ILD). An article in Arthritis Today (Jan/Feb 2016) states that the associated chronic conditions are collective called “Co-morbidity.” Often these medical conditions occur together, although the reason is unclear and it’s virtually impossible to know which comes first.
Since your immune system normally destroys viruses and other invading organisms that cause you illness, the same is true when this system’s potential for destruction is activated by a stressor. However, when this activation occurs, your immune system views your body as the invading organism and vigilantly destroys you. Since this activation sets off chronic inflammation, your body is under attack – forever. LUPUS is a slow, ever-invading, ever-destroying medical condition. As I stated before, LUPUS can attack any system in your body.
So, when you see your Rheumatologist you may be diagnosed with inflammation in multiple parts of your body. Your joints could be stiff, swollen, hot and painful; your muscles may be achy; fluid may have accumulated around your heart; the functioning of your kidneys may not be working to produce clear urine or the urine may contain small particles of blood; thought processes may have become fussy or slow for you because the chronic inflammation of LUPUS has clouded the functions of your brain; your GI tract is out of sync and you are experiencing either diarrhea or constipation – all symptoms of LUPUS but only one medical condition on the autoimmune spectrum. Your immune system’s mutation hypervigilance mobilizes and releases pro-inflammatory cytokines and tumor necrosis factor when it senses an invading entity. This hypervigilance is activated by a stressor. This stressor can be whatever each individual perceives as a stressor; prolonged sleep deprivation, suffering from a cold or respiration infection, enduring intense psychological stress or being threatened by a physical danger. Any or all of these situations can trigger a genetic potential for an autoimmune disease.
The horizon looks better. Recent research and current collective medical collaboration provides more treatment options. Even though your body may be swollen, tired and painful, research shows that moderate exercise will improve your overall health and endurance level. However, there are a few tips to keep in mind when you put your exercise plan into action. When you turn your body, do so slowly. Plan out your route so that you can decrease the number of turns and direction changes. This will reduce your chance of “tripping over your own feet.” As you turn, take multiple, small steps and lift your feet instead of pivoting. Keep your feet under your hips – not too close together or too far apart, as either can cause your to lose your balance (Arthritis Today Mar/Ap. 2018). Also, take advantage of technology. There are trackers and websites that can help. You can monitor your symptoms, improve your health, stay on top of your medications, boost your overall fitness and thereby put your e-health to good use.
There are some basic truths about LUPUS that research has made more evident. – You are a vital part of the health care team – pain medication may be helpful in your care plan – some people may experience medication side effects – pain can signal joint injury or overuse – some people with LUPUS can work by arranging flexible hours – medications won’t cure LUPUS – protecting your joints is vital- let your doctor know your medical history – ask questions of your medical provider.
Selma Gomez was diagnosed with LUPUS and recently underwent a kidney transplant in 2017; her friend Francia Raisa, donated a kidney. This is just an example of the multiple medical advances in technology surrounding autoimmune conditions. A few years ago this kind of event would not have been released to the news media.
Over time, LUPUS inflammation will cause damage in the joints and the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support them. According to Philip J. Mease MD, Director of Rheumatology clinical research at The Swedish Medical Center and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, the goal in treating patients with LUPUS is to achieve either a state of remission or low disease activity. Standard therapy usually begins with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids to relieve joint symptoms. Methotrexate, alone or with other medication, can be a valuable option. Methotrexate is referred to as a traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD); it blocks several enzymes involved in the immune system. The next step is usually to advance toward biologics. Biologics block proteins or they target T-lymphocytes (T-cells) that play a key role in many inflammatory diseases. Biologics are genetically engineered from a living organism, such as a virus, gene or protein, Because they’re grown in labs, and not made from chemicals like many other drugs, they cost more to produce. And because they suppress the immune system, they can increase the risk of infections. However, biologics may lose their effectiveness over time. That’s why ongoing drug discovery is so important. The overall goal of caring for LUPUS patients is controlling the disease activity, making people more comfortable and improving their daily functioning.
You play a vital part in the “exercise-medication” program. Adhering to the mutually-agreeable upon medical plan devised by you and your medical provider will help to ensure that you modify some joint destruction and disability. Once you’re diagnosed with LUPUS it’s a journey of personal discovery between you and your doctor.