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A person pressing an ice pack to their wrist.

Steps for Managing Lupus Joint Pain

Lupus Joint Pain

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes systemic inflammation. It can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. With lupus, a person’s immune system attacks their body. Continue reading to learn more about lupus joint pain and how you can cope with it.

Lupus Joint Pain Explained



Lupus often starts with joint and muscle pain and typically affects both sides of the body at the same time. This pain is usually felt in the joints of the wrists, hands, fingers, and knees. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, lupus usually does not cause permanent joint damage, although the joints may look inflamed.

Signs and Symptoms of Lupus Joint Pain

The symptoms of lupus vary from person to person— while some symptoms are mild, others can be severe.

Lupus affects different parts of the body. When it reaches internal organs, it becomes serious, and you should seek treatment. It is important to have regular check-ups and to report any new symptoms to your healthcare professionals.

The most common symptoms of lupus are:

  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Ulcers in the mouth or nose
  • Hair loss
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling of the lymph glands in the neck, armpits, groin, or under the chin
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

What Causes Lupus?

The cause of lupus is unknown, though research leans toward external factors:

  • Stress
  • Viral infections
  • Medication
  • Regular exposure to chemicals, such as silica or pesticides; they may cause gene reactions

Since lupus often affects women during their childbearing years, it is believed that hormones play a role in the condition. Lupus is not always passed directly from parents to their children, however having a close relative suffering from this disease may increase your chances of developing it. The disease is believed to be the result of a mix of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors.

The following factors have been linked to the occurrence of lupus:

  • An illness or infection
  • Strong sunlight exposure
  • Hormonal changes, such as during puberty
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Some medications (this is known as drug-induced lupus, and this usually gets better when you stop taking the medication that caused it)

How You Can Manage the Pain

Medications

To reduce the pains caused by lupus, you can take a variety of effective medicines. Pain medicines are helpful and can help reduce the pain. However, certain medications have side effects, so you should consult your doctor before starting any medication.

Heat

Joint and muscle pain can be reduced by the application of heat. Moist heat will help soothe pain better than dry heat. You can achieve this by soaking yourself in a hot tub, sauna, using a moist heated towel, or taking a hot shower.

Ice

Ice or cold applications are usually used for strained or twisted muscles or injuries. When applied correctly, this method can help relieve pain, reduce swelling, and speed up healing.

Behavioral Strategies

Engaging in helpful relaxation activities, such as progressive relaxation, meditation, self-hypnosis, focused breathing, and low-impact yoga can be helpful for pain management. With this method, your mind is distracted from pain and you will find relief from the stress and tension that can actually make pain worse.

Different Treatment Options

There is no cure for lupus. Treatment often involves managing systemic inflammation with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Medications are helpful in treating inflammation caused lupus and easing symptoms:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs help to manage joint pain and swelling— some can be easily obtained as over-the-counter drugs, while others require a prescription.
  • Corticosteroids: These are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs given at the lowest possible dose for the shortest length of time because of side effects. Corticosteroids are either taken as pills or given as injection.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): They are often used together with NSAIDs and are effective in preventing the progression of the disease and slowing down joint damage.
  • BLyS-specific inhibitors: Belimumab helps to suppress auto-antibodies in people with lupus.
  • Acthar: This is an FDA-approved hormone treatment used for lupus.

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