Lupus and Lessons Learned
Autumn Years reports on the diagnosis and management of lupus according to HSS rheumatologist Dee Dee Wu, MD, as well as patient resources for support and education available at HSS, according to Priscilla Toral, LCSW, social worker at HSS.
Dr. Wu explained the diagnosis is based on a detailed medical history, symptoms, physical examination and the results of a blood test. She cautioned that in older adults, an internist may attribute symptoms such as joint pain and fatigue to advancing age, and it’s important to have a thorough workup by a rheumatologist who understands the nuances of blood tests and symptoms. Dr. Wu noted various medications are prescribed, such as hydroxychloroquine, based on a patient’s age and any other health conditions. Additionally, good lifestyle choices can help lupus patients feel better and help prevent flares. “I think it’s always helpful to maintain a good weight, eat well and exercise routinely. Viral infections such as a cold or the flu can sometimes trigger lupus flare-ups, so it is important to stay healthy by washing hands often and avoiding close contact with sick individuals,” advised Dr. Wu. “Smoking cessation is also critical, as it has been shown to exacerbate the disease. Smoking also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is already higher in lupus patients,” she added.
The demand for the LupusLine®, a telephone peer support program offering at HSS has increased significantly during the pandemic, said Toral. “Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common in patients with lupus due to the unpredictable and invisible nature of the illness, and for many, this has been exacerbated during the pandemic,” she noted. “Identifying a support person or maintaining regular connections through a service such as LupusLine®, a community group, or a religious or spiritual organization can reduce isolation and help people cope better.”
In addition to LupusLine®, HSS has developed a mobile app for people with lupus called LupusMinder® and offers a wealth of information about lupus on its website: HSS.edu/lupus.
This article appeared in the April 2021 print edition.