Lupus (cont.)

What Will the Doctor Do?

Go see a doctor. He or she will talk to you and take a history of your health problems. Many people have lupus for a long time before they find out they have it. It's important that you tell the doctor or nurse about your symptoms. This information, along with a physical examination and the results of laboratory tests, helps the doctor decide whether you have lupus or something else.

A rheumatologist (ROOM-uh-TALL-uh-jist) is a doctor who specializes in treating diseases that affect the joints and muscles, like lupus. You may want to ask your regular doctor for a referral to a rheumatologist.

In some cases, a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases that affect the skin, may be involved in diagnosis and treatment. No single test can show that you have lupus. Your doctor may have to run several tests and study your medical history. It may take time for the doctor to diagnose lupus.

Will I Get Medicine?

Remember that each person has different symptoms. Treatment depends on the symptoms. The doctor may give you aspirin or a similar medicine to treat swollen joints and fever. Creams may be prescribed for a rash. For more serious problems, stronger medicines such as antimalaria drugs, corticosteroids, and chemotherapy drugs are used. Your doctor will choose a treatment based on your symptoms and needs.

Always tell your doctor if you have problems with your medicines. Let your doctor know if you take herbal or vitamin supplements. Your medicines may not mix well with these supplements. You and your doctor can work together to find the best way to treat all of your symptoms.

How Can I Cope With Lupus?

You need to find out what works best for you. You may find that a rheumatologist has the best treatment plan for you. Other health professionals who can help you deal with different aspects of lupus include psychologists, occupational therapists, dermatologists, and dietitians. You might find that doing exercises with a physical therapist makes you feel better. The important thing is to follow up with your health care team on a regular basis, even when your lupus is quiet and all seems well.

Dealing with a long-lasting disease like lupus can be hard on the emotions. You might think that your friends, family, and coworkers do not understand how you feel. Sadness and anger are common reactions.

People with lupus have limited energy and must manage it wisely. Ask your health care team about ways to cope with fatigue. Most people feel better if they manage their rest and work and take their medicine. If you're depressed, medicine and counseling can help.

Also,

  • Pay attention to your body. Slow down or stop before you're too tired.
  • Learn to pace yourself. Spread out your work and other activities.
  • Don't blame yourself for your fatigue. It's part of the disease.
  • Consider support groups and counseling. They can help you realize that you're not alone. Group members teach one another how to cope.
  • Consider other support from your family as well as faith-based and other community groups.

It's true that staying healthy is harder when you have lupus. You need to pay close attention to your body, mind, and spirit. Having a chronic disease is stressful. People cope with stress differently. Some approaches that may help are:

  • Staying involved in social activities
  • Practicing techniques such as meditation and yoga
  • Setting priorities for spending time and energy

Exercising is another approach that can help you cope with lupus. Types of exercise that you can practice include the following:

  • Range-of-motion (for example, stretching) exercises help maintain normal joint movement and relieve stiffness. This type of exercise helps maintain or increase flexibility.
  • Strengthening (for example, weight lifting) exercises help keep or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help support and protect joints affected by lupus.
  • Aerobic or endurance (for example, brisk walking or jogging) exercises improve cardiovascular fitness, help control weight, and improve overall function.

People with chronic diseases like lupus should check with their health care professional before starting an exercise program.

Learning about lupus may also help. People who are well-informed and take part in planning their own care report less pain. They also may make fewer visits to the doctor, have more self-confidence, and remain more active.

Women who want to start a family should work closely with their health care team; for example, doctors, physical therapists, and nurses. Your obstetrician and your lupus doctor should work together to find the best treatment plan for you.



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