‘Remission’ – the Holy grail of lupus, the one thing we all seek and the word that gives all patients hope.
So what is remission? Basically every lupus patient is affected by lupus differently, which is why it’s so difficult to diagnose and then to treat. If you try to find a definition of remission online the results are all different. However, it tends to mean that lupus calms down and becomes inactive, so you can see why it’s something all patients would want. Lupus is currently incurable so we have it for life, the wish we have is that we get at least a period of time with relief from the constant pain.
Remission involves the symptoms settling down or even stopping and sometimes even blood work goes back to normal, lupus becomes ‘dormant’. This doesn’t mean that lupus has gone, as I said it’s with us for life and just because it goes into remission doesn’t mean that it won’t flare back up again so length of periods of remission can vary.
Interestingly remission can occur with women after menopause, it’s believed that this is because of hormonal involvement that could trigger lupus symptoms. Several studies indicated that lupus may actual calm down in intensity once a woman makes it through menopause. Maximum disease activity was significantly lower during the postmenopausal period.
Can you do anything to go into remission? There’s no magic trick to this as it is down to your body to decide and as I said we’re all different and so are our bodies, also the severity of your lupus is a factor. There are certainly things you can do to help manage your lupus. For example it’s important to take medication as it’s prescribed and don’t forget to take it, it can help calm down your lupus and eventually, who knows it may stay that way. Often when lupus patients are in remission doctors will be able to slowly lower some medications and even stop them altogether, but it is very important that this is only done under medical supervision, do not try to do this yourself as it could potentially be dangerous.
I’m lucky in the fact that the longer I’ve had lupus the more it has calmed down and I do get periods of remission, I do also experience some flares but less than I used to get. I don’t take these periods of remission for granted and I know I have to be careful and treat my body with great respect as otherwise lupus can flare up again.
I’m sure you know what I’m going to say next? Yep it’s the old ‘diet and exercise helps’ conversation. Personally I’ve always subscribed to the theory that what you put into your body and what you do to your body affects how it behaves. I don’t smoke, only drink very occasionally and in general I follow a good nutritious diet, I do exercise and I am convinced (and this is backed up by many scientific studies) that this all helps my body cope with lupus (and other conditions). I’ve always said that if I sat on my sofa all day, smoked and ate fast food my lupus would pay me back for doing that as they’re all the things that do not help your body cope with lupus. I mustn’t forget I still have lupus, so it’s all a matter of live as healthy a life as you can, all things in moderation and know your limitations, don’t push yourself too much.
The other thing that we know lupus hates is stress and that’s much more difficult to control, however you can certainly ‘try not to sweat the small stuff’. Does it matter that much if you’re stuck in a queue for a few minutes? Not really, try deep breathing exercises or distract yourself with your phone whilst you wait. I often count to ten several times a day to try not to get stressed. Sometimes the job you have or the relationship you are in are causing you too much stress than they’re worth, maybe it’s time to reconsider some things, as I said it’s not easy but if your health is at risk it might be time to put yourself first.
The combination of all the things mentioned plus avoiding things that are known to cause flares, such as sunlight, all help manage lupus and help it stay calm. If you are lucky enough to be in remission, a little extra effort and being mindful of the things you are able to control will help lupus stay in remission.