Tis the season for traveling out of town with the masses, cooking and eating enough for an army, family political dinner conversations bordering impending bar brawl scenes, and the stress of shopping for that perfect gift in overcrowded stores. While many people take it in stride, for those with autoimmune diseases it can mean potential symptom flare-up. How does stress affect those with autoimmune diseases, and what steps can patients take to make the holidays hopefully a no-flare merry time? With almost 20% of the population affected with one of the 80 or more autoimmune diseases American households from Harlem to Hollywood will be impacted.
Here are some Facts for cutting the stress:
- Plan! – Not leaving things until last minute, or making a holiday plan will help reduce stress.
- “Let it go” – You can’t do everything and when things start getting overwhelming it is time to start prioritizing and realize some things you can skip or live without.
- Support network – Talk to your family about your condition in advance. Let them know how stress impacts you and how they can help.
- Holiday Conversations – Arguments and tension during the holidays due to intense dinnertime conversation is often par for the course at the family dinner table. With planning, the conversations can be avoided or limiting time in the room or party if things get too heated.
NYU Langone Medical Center’s Dr. Ashira Blazer talks about how stress impacts autoimmune diseases like lupus. Thanks to her efforts and those at NYU Langone’s Judith & Stewart Colton Center for Autoimmunity their discoveries will further the development and testing of novel strategies in the treatment and diagnosis of autoimmune diseases like lupus.
African American women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop Lupus, and more likely to have active disease with serious organ system involvement. Lupus is also more common in women of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent than in Caucasian women.
Here are Twelve Facts and Tips about Autoimmune Disease Lupus:
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- Lupus Hiding in Plain Sight – Lupus affects over 5 million people globally, including 1.5 million in the United States). This autoimmune disease’s symptoms can impact just about anywhere in the body, and even though its sufferers may appear well. Lupus can damage many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain.
- African American Women At Higher Risk – African American women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop Lupus, and more likely to have active disease with serious organ system involvement. Lupus is also more common in women of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent than in Caucasian women.
- Women Overwhelming Majority of Lupus Patients – 9 times out of 10 an adult with lupus is a woman. Women of childbearing age are most commonly affected.
- Ultraviolet Light Triggers Flares – Ultra violet light, mostly from the sun—but even ultraviolet light bulbs–can bring on a flare.
- Lupus Butterfly – The symbol often used for Lupus is a butterfly named for the common facial rash it causes in 1/3 of patients. .
- The Imitator – A “disease of a thousand faces” Lupus can take on the characteristics of many other illnesses and is often misdiagnosed.
- More Than Just One – Lupus unfortunately likes company and those suffering from Lupus may develop other autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease and Arthritis.
- Tired No Matter What – The most common symptom of Lupus is chronic fatigue; patients may be exhausted regardless of the amount of nightly sleep.
- Tip: Special Attention During Pregnancy – Pregnancy in women with lupus is considered high risk, but thanks to advances in care, most women have safe pregnancies. Recent research led by NYU Langone that tracked women with lupus throughout pregnancy and birth found most women with well controlled lupus will have a safe pregnancy. What’s important is that these patients are monitored by a specialist throughout.
- Tip: Healthy Lifestyle Key – Lupus can also lead to later health problems, like atherosclerosis with increased risk for heart attacks, heart failure and stroke. Having a healthy lifestyle, and reducing risk factors for heart disease — such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — is important for patients with lupus
- Tip: Medical Team Needed: People with lupus may need several types of doctors depending on their symptoms, starting with a good primary care doctor and a managing rheumatologist. Other important specialists may contribute to care including nephrologists, dermatologists, neurologists, cardiologists, endocrinologists, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
- New Research Promising –NYU Langone experts are part of a CDC initiative to better understand the impact of systemic lupus erythematosus, and our doctors offer access to clinical trials for new therapies at NYU Langone’s Lupus Center. Our researchers are leading clinical trials for new treatments that may decrease overactive immune cells, reduce pathogenic autoantibodies that attack healthy tissue, and identify biomarkers that predict flare-ups and a patient’s response to therapy.
Dr. Ashira Blazer is a rheumatologist in New York, New York. She received her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and recipient of Rheumatology Research Foundation Scientist Development Award.