Lupus can have many symptoms and that can get confusing. I want to take a look at the differences between Lupus and arthritis. Is there a difference and how will our medical professionals be able to tell which we are afflicted with?
How does Lupus differ from arthritis? In general Lupus, joint pain isn’t usually damaging to the joints whereas arthritis does cause damage to the joints. Lupus arthritis tends to be less severe than arthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis.
Of course, nothing about Lupus is ever that simple or clear cut but this article will help you to understand the differences and overlaps between different conditions and treatments available.
Is Lupus a form of arthritis?
Lupus is not a form of arthritis but arthritis can be one of many symptoms. Lupus causes inflammation in the body which can then affect the joints causing arthritis. It is important to be clear which you have as the treatments for Lupus have some differences to the treatments for arthritis and although some may overlap Lupus does need other treatments to protect other organs and help manage the disease, whereas arthritis doesn’t affect the organs or cause the other symptoms Lupus patients get.
General arthritis compared to Lupus.
General arthritis is caused by inflammation and/or wear and tear. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and can restrict movement. Lupus arthritis is caused by inflammation and can also cause pain, swelling, and stiffness but doesn’t usually cause damage to the joint. Lupus arthritis usually disappears when the Lupus flare passes only to return with the next flare. But a poorly managed Lupus can end up causing damage to the joint. ( poorly managed can mean everything you and your doctor try just isn’t working!)
What about Rheumatoid arthritis?
Like Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. However RA can cause significant damage to the joints, one characteristic can be that the fingers bend to the side towards the little finger, called swan neck fingers. RA rarely involves other organs or causes a rash as Lupus can. In both cases, joint pain is usually symmetrical, both wrists, both feet, etc.
Symptoms in common are
- Joint pain
- stiffness in joints
- low-grade fever
RA will often also include
- warmth and redness around the joint
- nodules on joint
- hand and foot deformities
Lupus will often include
- unexplained rashes
- butterfly rash
- hair loss
- organ problems
- abnormal blood clotting.
Can you have Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis?
You can have both but it is rare and sometimes called Rupus.
Sometimes it is truly an overlap and sometimes it can be Lupus kind of mimicking RA, Lupus is, after all, known as the great imitator!
Basically you could be testing positive for both and show signs of both even physicians find it hard to fathom, and research is ongoing. read more here
What treatments are on offer?
For osteoarthritis here are some suggestions that may help.
- Losing excess weight to relieve joint pressure
- avoiding exercise which puts pressure on the joints, like running, and try walking, swimming, yoga-type exercises instead. It is important to keep moving so you don’t lose muscle strength and seize up!
- avoid staying in the same position for long periods of time, so if you sit at a desk all day try to take breaks and move around.
- non-steroid anti-inflammatories and painkillers may also be given.
For RA and Lupus, all of the above could be helpful but check with your doctor, you might also be given
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) theses drugs decrease inflammation and slow down the progression of the disease. Hydroxychlorinique and methotrexate are DMARDs’
- Biologics are injectable drugs and block specific inflammatory pathways made by immune cells and this helps to reduce inflammation. Abatacept and Rituximab are biologics.
- Corticosteroids, steroids also reduce inflammation and tend to be given over a short time to get on top of the disease but aren’t recommended for long term use.
- Immunosuppressants fight the damage caused by RA however, they can increase your risk of infection and so you will be closely monitored.
What natural things can help?
Keeping as well as you can is important as it gives the body the best chance to cope with your disease. Trying to keep in a healthy weight bracket is important but can be difficult if your meds cause weight gain!
Keep moving the less we move the less we can move! I found that after a flare-up and not really moving much for three months I needed physio to help strengthen my muscles again so they could successfully support my joints.
There are excellent yoga tutorials online and I use beginner or even chair yoga to keep me mobile when I am in a flare and can’t do anything else. Swimming is an excellent exercise and if you can’t swim just walking in the water and moving around is gentle on the joints but the resistance of the water tones your muscles.
I am trying the ‘Goodbye Autoimmune’ diet, it is all about removing inflammatory foods and hyper nourishing and I am having good results from it! You can read more here.
Remove stress, stress is a massive contributor to Lupus. We all have stress in our lives, remove what you can, and learn to manage what you can’t with talking therapies, meditation, and calming hobbies.
Stay out of the sun or protect yourself from the sun as much as possible as it is a big trigger for a lot of Lupies!
Taking time for yourself can also be a game-changer, we can get so caught up with our illness it can begin to feel that’s all there is to us! However try to keep doing things you enjoy, I really enjoy wearing makeup and I’m ‘in to’ fashion. Sometimes I have been too exhausted to indulge in those passions but I feel better when I am well-groomed, so, when I felt better I practiced a simple natural make up look that I could do with little effort, I paired down my skincare routine to one I could manage while in a flare. I also reorganized my wardrobe so it was easy for me to find comfy but still stylish outfits to wear. Of course, there are still days when I just stay in my PJs and rest but for the in-between days when I have a little energy, it helps my mood to pull a simple look together.
I am also a creative person but getting all my paints out or my sewing machine on some days is just too much, but it helps my mental health and lowers my stress to be creative so I have a sketchbook ready with a pencil so I can do some fun drawing, I have embroidery I can pick up if my fingers aren’t too sore and I have knitting on the go. Recently I started making friendship bracelets another way to be creative with little effort. Whatever it is that makes you, you and helps you feel calmer try to find a way to do a simpler version of it for when you feel too poorly to go all out. Even doing some colouring can help!
It’s really important to take care of your mental well being as well as your physical health the two are intrinsically linked.
Rest if your body is telling you to rest listen and find time for naps or chill outs, maybe a nice bath, a movie whatever but remember to rest so your body can restore, its not lazy its self care!
It is super important to be working with your doctor before you try anything! Even some natural herbs and oils can interfere with certain meds, also by working with your doctor you can access other services like physios or counseling. If you aren’t feeling supported by your doctor ask for a second opinion or try to work out how to get them onside.
I find if I go with a list of questions then I don’t forget what I wanted to ask I also keep a record of my symptoms if they have been troublesome, I swear I literally forget my name when I am confronted with a medical professional! Remember they are there to help you, you aren’t bothering them it’s their job to help and it can help if you can build mutual respect!
Also, be patient with yourself and your doc! Hopefully, you are both trying your best and it can take time to get things right. Don’t be afraid to speak up if things aren’t working but also give them time … I know the Hydroxychlorinique took a good while and even 18 months on I still see changes … who knows if that’s down to my diet or the meds but I’m happy to see my condition getting managed better.
Really get on board with keeping as well as you can through diet, exercise, rest, being consistent with your meds, finding ways to still have the quality to your life even when in a flare. Have a read here
for more tips and ideas.