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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Lifestyle changes can't cure SLE. But they can help handle symptoms, improve quality of life, and lower the risk of problems from it. You will also need to find a balance for your physical and mental health.

Quit Smoking

Smoking alters each cell in the body. It also causes stress on the heart, lungs, and kidneys. The stress can worsen SLE. Quitting will have good benefits on your health right away. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can quit.

Avoid Being in the Sun

SLE makes many people more likely to get a sunburn. Sunlight can also worsen SLE skin rashes and cause it to flare up. To protect yourself:

  • Avoid the sun, chiefly between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
  • Wear a hat, long sleeves, and clothing that covers all of your legs.

Avoiding Infection

SLE and some of the drugs used to treat it also lower the immune system. This puts you at a higher risk of infections. Infections may come more often or last longer. To protect yourself:

  • Make sure you are up to date and have gotten all your vaccines.
  • Get the yearly flu shot.
  • Get the pneumococcal shot.
  • Do not be around people who are sick, even if it is just a common cold.
  • Wash your hands often, especially after being in contact with someone who is sick.

Not all infections can be stopped. Get care right away if you think you have one.

Diet

A healthy diet is vital for your well-being. Be sure to get enough fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Dietary changes may also be needed if you have things like high blood pressure, kidney disease, or digestive problems.

Omega-3 fatty acids may help lower SLE activity. Omega-3 is found in fatty fish and certain plant seed oils. It is also available in supplement form, but it is best to get it from foods.

It may be helpful to avoid alfalfa, but there are no other foods that start flare-ups. Keep a food diary. Do not eat foods that make your symptoms worse.

Limit alcohol. It can affect how medicines work or worsen problems that you may have. Moderation is two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Lower Stress

Stress can put an extra burden on your body. It can also weaken your immune system and worsen symptoms. Look for ways to reduce it, such as lifestyle changes or meditation.

It can be stressful to manage SLE. Consider joining a support group. If you have a hard time getting out, consider using video chat, email, or social networking. Try not to isolate yourself. Stay in touch with your friends.

Exercise

Exercise can help with your strength and well-being. This can lessen the effects of SLE. Activities may need to be adjusted during flare ups, but complete bed rest is rarely helpful.

Talk with your doctor before you start an exercise program. Exercise programs can focus on avoiding problem areas, such as a sore hip. An exercise physiologist or physical therapist can help design a safe and helpful program.

Avoid Depression

It is common to feel mood changes, especially within the first few months of a new diagnosis or during a flare up. Depression can slow your recovery and put you at risk for more serious health problems.

Call your doctor if you have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that last for two weeks. There are several treatment options available, such as counseling and medicines.

Returning to Everyday Life

  • Take an active role in your care —Keep in touch with your medical team. Let them know if you are having signs that a flare up may be coming. Talk to them about symptoms or treatments that you are having a hard time with. There may be other treatment options to help you manage your health.
  • Sex —It is normal for you or your partner to feel worried about sexual activity. SLE impact sex and your relationship. You and your partner may be referred to individual or couples therapy. It will help you both talk about your concerns.
  • Counseling —Support groups or one-on-one counseling can help you cope with challenges. Support groups let you talk with others who have experiences like yours. They offer a setting of encouragement and support that will help you adjust and stick to your treatment.
REFERENCES:

Living well with lupus. Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.lupus.org/answers/topic/living-well-with-lupus. Accessed September 4, 2018.

Lupus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Lupus/default.asp. Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed August 31, 2018.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115873/Systemic-lupus-erythematosus-SLE. Updated July 20, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal_and_connective_tissue_disorders/autoimmune_rheumatic_disorders/systemic_lupus_erythematosus_sle.html. Updated February 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 9/4/2018