Painful Joints and Body Weakness? It Could Be Lupus

Painful Joints and Body Weakness? It Could Be Lupus

Peace Nwoha |Apr 1, 2021

Do I Have Lupus?

Your body has an immune system that defends it from germs and foreign bodies. Sometimes, your body’s defense system mistakes some of the cells in your body for germs and begins to fight them. This is called an autoimmune disease, and lupus is just one example.

Lupus is a long-term autoimmune condition with alternating periods of mild to severe symptoms that cause pain and inflammation within your body. The most commonly affected areas include the skin, organs such as the lungs, kidneys, heart, and joints.

The Lupus Foundation stated that about 1.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition. However, the figure might be higher if you consider cases that have not been reported. Lupus affects all age groups but has been found to have a higher incidence among women between the ages of 15 to 44, individuals with a family history of other autoimmune conditions or lupus, and some ethnic groups, including Hispanic, Native American, African American, and Asian American.

Types of Lupus

This article focuses on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as it is the most common type. When someone is talking about lupus, they are usually referring to SLE. However, there are four different types:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — the most common type, affecting 70% of people with lupus.
  • Cutaneous — limited to the skin, causing rashes or sores (lesions). Approximately two-thirds of people with lupus will develop a form of cutaneous lupus.
  • Drug-induced — a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription medications. This type is more common in men.
  • Neonatal — not true lupus, but a rare condition that affects the fetus and infant of a mother with lupus.

Symptoms of Lupus

The symptoms associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) include:

  • Body weakness
  • Loss of hair
  • Pain and swelling in the joints
  • A characteristic rash that spreads across the nose and cheeks commonly referred to as a “butterfly rash”
  • Headaches
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon in which the fingers turn blue or white when exposed to cold

The symptoms may develop slowly, and no two cases are exactly alike. They may be temporary or permanent, and they can range from mild to severe. The signs and symptoms are similar to those of other systemic conditions, so careful assessment is needed to diagnose properly.

Causes

The cause of this condition is still unknown, but some factors have been linked to the condition.

Estrogen Hormone

Lupus has been noted to occur more in females than males with worsened symptoms during menstruation and pregnancy. These findings have prompted clinicians to link estrogen with the condition.

Heredity

Although no gene is associated with the condition so far, it has been observed that individuals with this condition tend to have members of their family who also have other autoimmune issues.

Environmental Triggers

These can be from physical or emotional trauma, infections, medications, and radiation.

How to Manage Lupus

Management begins with an appropriate diagnosis. This usually includes your doctor taking a medical history to determine when the symptoms started, their frequency, duration, and severity.

A thorough physical examination is then conducted to identify the signs of the condition, such as:

  • Thinning or loss of hair
  • Tenderness and joint swelling
  • Butterfly or malar rash
  • Oral or nasal ulcers
  • Pain or difficulty breathing which may indicate lung involvement
  • Irregularities in heartbeat or function which could indicate heart involvement

Several screening tests may be done, including a chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), urinalysis, blood tests, and tests for other specific areas that could be affected, such as the abdomen.

Treatment Options

As of today, there is still no cure for lupus. The condition can only be managed long-term through:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and antimalarial medications to relieve joint pain and tenderness
  • Corticosteroids to stabilize the immune system
  • Steroid-based creams for butterfly rashes
  • In severe cases, medications that specifically target the immune system are often prescribed

You may also get referred to specialists who will help manage affected parts of your body, such as a cardiologist or rheumatologist. You should also ensure that you modify your lifestyle to reduce stress and environmental triggers and drink lots of water.

Complications

Lupus can cause severe pregnancy complications, sometimes resulting in miscarriage, so it is essential to involve your doctor throughout your pregnancy and delivery process. Since the condition affects the immune system in various parts of the body, long-term effects can manifest in several ways, such as:

  • Blood clots could get dislodged and block narrow blood vessels leading to loss of function of the affected organ
  • Inflamed blood vessels, lungs, and kidneys
  • Lung or Kidney failure
  • Memory loss
  • Alopecia or baldness
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizures

What is the Prognosis?

The prognosis for lupus varies because it affects everyone differently. Nonetheless, it is crucial that you begin managing the condition early. Do not hesitate to let your health care provider know about any new symptoms, pregnancy, or issues that may be bothering you.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a long-term condition, and managing it can sometimes negatively affect mental health. Make sure to seek counseling and support when necessary, and try not to work under stressful conditions or in environments that can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

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7 Ways to Treat Plantar Fasciitis

Krista Bugden | April 1, 2021

How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis About 1% of American adults experience plantar fasciitis each year. In fact, about 1 in 10 individuals will experience this condition at some point during their life, so knowing how to treat plantar fasciitis, both medically and naturally, is important. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the connective tissue along the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed and irritated. Typically, the main sign of plantar fasciitis is heel pain. As such, this condition can make it difficult to walk, leading to frustration and a decreased quality of life. Luckily, plantar fasciitis is a treatable condition. Most people recover within a matter of months. In this article, we are going to offer a brief overview of the signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis, as well as the treatment options available. Plantar Fasciitis Signs and Symptoms The most common signs of plantar fasciitis include: Pain in the heel, or near the heel. Increased pain after walking or exercise. Pain in the arch of the foot. Increased pain in the morning. Swelling in the heel. Pain in the heel that goes on for months at a time. A tight Achilles heel or calf muscle. Plantar fasciitis can occur due to several reasons, such as: Wearing improper footwear. Carrying excess weight. Running, jumping, working or walking on hard surfaces. Standing for long durations. Exercising without properly stretching the calves. 7 Best Treatment Options So, you have got heel pain. Now, what? You actually have quite a few options. Below offers an outline of some of the most popular ones. 1. Calf Stretching In many cases, plantar fasciitis can be caused by tight calves or a tight Achilles heel. This usually happens due to high levels of activity without adequate stretching. Thus, part of your solution to plantar fasciitis may be stretching your calf muscles regularly. To do so, find a wall nearby. Place both your hands on the wall and extend your affected foot back, pressing the heel down into the floor. As you do this, lean forward into the wall. You should feel a gentle stretch on your back leg. Hold here for about 20 to 30 seconds. Make sure to do both sides (this can actually help prevent plantar fasciitis from developing in both feet). 2. Use Custom Insoles Custom insoles are fitted to your feet. This offers the support your feet and body needs, including abnormal foot motion or collapsed arches (flat feet). Often referred to as orthotics, you will need to go to a clinic or center that specializes in making these. You’ll usually go in for making the mold, then have a follow-up appointment to ensure the insoles fit correctly. 3. Wear Proper Footwear Walking in high heels or flip-flops can lead to improper gait and foot movements. As a result, you are more likely to experience plantar fasciitis after doing so. A quick fix (and preventative tactic)? Wear proper footwear! If you are planning on walking for a set duration, put on sneakers or shoes suited to the activity. This may further involve wearing insoles made specifically for you, as mentioned above. [youmaylike] 4. Ice the Painful Area Icing can help reduce pain and decrease inflammation. Aim to ice your affected foot for about 10 to 15 minutes, about three to four times each day. Ensure you place a cloth between your skin and the ice pack to prevent any damage caused by the cold. It may further help to roll a cold water bottle along the bottom of your foot (this can help release tension and knots in that connective tissue). However, if this causes more pain, don’t continue. 5. Limit Physical Activity Unfortunately, the main treatment for plantar fasciitis involves resting. This means no walking or running. Yet, you can still exercise, but you may simply need to explore different options, such as floor movements or sitting exercises over standing. Ideally, you likely want to limit your physical activity until the pain subsides. 6. Lose Weight If excess weight is a contributing factor to your plantar fasciitis, your doctor may recommend losing weight and working toward a healthier weight. As such, you may need to change certain lifestyle habits. This may involve eating healthier and cutting out processed foods. When it comes to exercise, you may opt for options that don’t put pressure on your feet, such as swimming or biking. The key is to start slow and gradually build up your resistance, frequency or intensity. 7. Physical Therapy Physical therapists are knowledgeable when it comes to the musculoskeletal system and biomechanics of the body. They can help determine the reason why you are experiencing plantar fasciitis, helping you come up with strategies to reduce your pain and prevent it from happening again. As part of your physical therapy treatment, you may undergo manual therapy, be given prescribed exercises and stretches, as well as be provided with advice on types of shoes to wear or what type of activities you can do. In Review All in all, plantar fasciitis is treatable. You don’t have to experience ongoing heel pain for the rest of your life, nor do you have to experience recurring heel pain. Taking proper care and the proper measures to prevent it go a long way, as well as help you maintain your health well into the future.

7 Benefits of Using an IUD

Elizabeth DiCesare | April 1, 2021

IUD Benefits to Consider IUDs are becoming a popular birth control option. In this article we look at seven IUD benefits, and discuss the different options. Talk to your doctor or a medical health professional, or visit a Planned Parenthood, for more information on getting a prescription. 1. Preventing Pregnancy IUDs are over 99% effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy. For people who don’t want an unexpected pregnancy, that is much more effective than the pill, which is 99% effective only when taken properly. The pill must be taken at the same time each day, which might be difficult for some people. IUDs, however, just need to be inserted and then they automatically do their job. 2. Out of Sight, Out of Mind Unlike prescriptions that need to be refilled every month, IUDs only need to be inserted once and then they are good for 3 to 10 years (depending on what type you get). They are incredibly convenient; all the user needs to do is check the strings to make sure it is still placed properly and call their doctor if they think it isn’t. Not having to think about taking a pill every day or buying new condoms when you are running low makes things easier and less stressful when it comes to your sexual and reproductive health. 3. No More Periods One of the side effects of using an IUD is the potential to stop menstruating. While this can be startling at first, it is completely normal. It’s common for hormonal IUDs to completely stop periods or lessen the flow. For many people, this is a welcome change. Other side effects related to periods include less severe cramps and minimal bloating. 4. Non-Hormonal Options Many people don’t want to be on hormonal birth control for several reasons. Luckily, there are non-hormonal IUDs as well. Paragard is a copper IUD that works in a similar way and is a great alternative to hormonal birth control options. However, you should confirm with your doctor that you don’t have a copper allergy before moving forward with this option. 5. Emergency Contraception Another bonus use of copper IUDs is that they can act as a method of emergency contraception. Having one inserted within five days of having unprotected sex is 99% effective at stopping an unwanted pregnancy. This is a great option for those who cannot access Plan B, and then they can be left in afterwards as well for future protection. [youmaylike] 6. Cost Effective Being on the pill means paying for a prescription every month. This adds up, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost, and even more so if you have to pay for a doctor’s appointment. While IUDs can have a big up-front cost, they are more cost effective over time. You pay only once and then enjoy the benefits over the next few years. Some options are covered by insurance, and there are social service programs that can also help people access cheaper options. 7. Easily Reversible If you decide you are ready for children, you can easily get your IUD removed. Once you book an appointment and it is taken out, your body will be fertile again. You don’t have to worry about infertility, as there is no waiting period; once it is out of your uterus, you can start trying to get pregnant. Types of IUDs As we mentioned previously, there are hormonal and copper IUDs. Both options prevent pregnancy, but there are some differences when it comes to how long they can be used for. Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about what option would be best for you. Hormonal IUDs Mirena can be used for up to five years and is a popular option for people who have already given birth. Kyleena can be used for up to five years and has lower hormone levels than other options. Skyla can be used for up to three years and is smaller than other options, which makes it easier to insert. Liletta can be used for up to six years and can be used whether or not you have given birth. Copper IUD Paragard can be used for up to 10 years and is the only non-hormonal IUD currently on the market. Side Effects of IUDs While there are many benefits to using an IUD, there are side effects users should be aware of too. Many are like the side effects experienced with other types of birth control. Inconsistent bleeding and/or irregular periods. Acne. Breast tenderness. Pelvic pain and/or cramps. Perforation. This happens if your IUD moves and pokes through your uterus or cervix. If you are experience negative side effects or think there is an issue with your IUD’s placement, speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional.

3 Common Seizure Triggers

Pamela Bandelaria | April 1, 2021

What Triggers Seizures? Seizures are one of the most well-documented symptoms everyone is familiar with. It is one of the symptoms commonly shown in movies and shows and the most common acute neurologic problem in the U.S. Data shows that around 1 in 10 people will have a seizure not caused by an injury, such as a concussion, illness, or infection. This might make you ask, “What triggers seizures?” First, you need to understand that recurrent seizures, also known as epilepsy, is the third most common serious neurologic disorder and occurs in 1 in 26 people. Around 3.4 million Americans live with this condition. Although many people know what a seizure is, not everyone knows what to do when it happens, and even fewer know that some seizures can be anticipated or preempted. Knowing when a seizure will occur is important to prepare appropriately, and in some cases, even prevent seizures from happening. This article will discuss what a seizure is, what the symptoms of a seizure are and what triggers seizures. What is a Seizure? The brain, comprising of nerve cells, communicates and functions by transmitting electrical activity from one nerve cell to another. This is how we are able to think, move and feel. When there is a disruption in electrical activity, this can affect our thoughts, feelings and movements. A seizure is an uncontrolled surge of electrical activity by the brain, which leads to changes in consciousness and involuntary movement of our muscles. Seizures not only disrupt electrical activity but also disrupt oxygen transport and delivery. This is why, even though seizures usually resolve on their own, the aim is to prevent them from happening. Repeated seizures and seizures that occur for a prolonged period of time can lead to irreversible complications. The brain is one of the organs that continuously needs oxygen, and permanent brain damage can be observed in just minutes without an adequate oxygen supply. In severe cases, this can be life-threatening. Seizure Symptoms Seizures may present in various ways. The classic presentation of a person experiencing a seizure includes: Eyes that are rolled upward. Arms and legs exhibiting stiffening or jerking movements. This is due to the disruption in brain activity, which affects the muscles of the body. Sitting still and staring. Small, twitching movements in the fingers or face. A sudden stop in breathing or changes in breathing patterns. Loss of bowel and bladder control, which can lead someone to soiling themselves. What Triggers a Seizure? Once a seizure begins, there is little that can be done except wait for the seizure to cease or take the person to a nearest health facility. However, some seizures are more likely to occur under certain circumstances, wherein a pattern can be noted. In some cases, these situations can trigger a seizure, with increased chances of it happening. For people who have recurrent seizures, identifying these seizure triggers is helpful in seeing if a seizure might possibly happen and when these factors are removed, can the seizure be prevented. The following section discusses some common seizure triggers. 1. Stress Although there are still debates as to whether or not stress can really trigger seizures, it is one of the most common factors perceived by people who experience recurrent seizures. Studies show that during periods of stress, there is an increase in the frequency of seizures experienced by patients with epilepsy. It is hypothesized that it can be due to the release of cortisol, which has excitatory properties that can further contribute to the occurrence of seizures. [youmaylike] 2. Sleep Problems Sleep problems have also been considered as another seizure trigger. Lack of sleep and disrupted sleep were found to contribute to occurrence of seizures, even in the absence of other triggers or factors. Poor quality of sleep has also been perceived by patients to trigger some seizures, although data is not as strong compared to quantity of sleep. Sleep deprivation as a seizure trigger is due to its effect on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. Some studies show that treatment of sleep problems also results in fewer occurrences of seizures. 3. Flashing Lights and Bright Lights Exposure to bright lights or flashes of light can also cause seizures. This occurs in around 3% of people with epilepsy. This kind of epilepsy is called photosensitive epilepsy. Examples of light sources that can trigger seizures include: Light from television screens or computer monitors. Strobe lights. Flashing lights in vehicles. Natural light or sunlight. Avoiding these can be helpful in reducing the occurrence of seizures in susceptible patients. When seeing a seizure, it can look scary at first. Most people panic when they see someone experiencing a seizure episode. However, knowing how to deal with this medical situation and knowing how to identify seizure triggers can be extremely helpful and lifesaving.