Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition, which at this time, doesn’t have a cure. Instead, patients with lupus can be brave and empowered to find ways to successfully live with their diagnosis. For lupus patients, there will be periods when disease is active and advancing and then there will be periods when it is inactive and under control. The periods of no symptoms are called remission.
Lupus remission is when you and your healthcare providers have successfully ended a period of active disease. It is a relief and a breath of fresh air, and the goal is to remain in remission for as long as possible.
Flares are periods of active disease and can present with a host of symptoms including flu-like symptoms (with or without fever), fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and skin rash. When a flare does occur, typically it can last anywhere from two to six days. Flares can also be times of disease progression. Managing symptoms of flares is essential to achieve remission and requires:
- Open communication with your healthcare providers
- Taking rescue medication (in addition to your regularly prescribed ones); typically corticosteroids are used to reduce autoimmune activity along with NSAIDS for inflammation
- Getting adequate rest and sleep
- Exercise such as pilates, yoga, tai chi, swimming, biking, and low impact aerobic
- Acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and massages for pain management
- Removing stressors from your environment
- Reaching out to your support system
During periods of lupus remission you and your doctor can work together to decide if you may lower or discontinue some of your medications. Research has shown that although this is a complex decision, it may be possible in some cases. These medications include immunosuppressants, glucocorticoids, and pain medications. It is important to always take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. In addition to this, making healthy food choices, exercising, and avoiding triggers can keep you in remission longer.
Another way to stay in remission longer is to keep track of your symptoms. Whether it’s through a journal, an app (there are so many new ones to try), or a telehealth visit with a coach. It gives you a chance to have records of your symptoms and be aware of any changes. Your daily monitoring should include:
- The date and time of recording.
- How you’re feeling (severity and location of pain or rash).
- Duration of symptom (is it new or reoccurring).
If you notice any changes, talk to your rheumatology experts team. Having open communication with your healthcare providers is also key to remaining in remission. As a healthcare provider myself, I hope that the treatment I’ve had a hand in provides either a complete cure or remission to patients. No matter the diagnosis, this is my hope for every health journey. We don’t want to see slow or rapid progression of disease. We want symptom reversal and disease absence so you can focus on living the life you want. We want you to be in remission.
By Nadia Bhatti