Can Exercise Help Relieve My Lupus Symptoms?

young african american woman doing push ups(BlackDoctor.org) — If you have systemic lupus, one of the best things you can do to manage the disease is to become as physically fit as possible.

Studies show that physical exercise can lower the risk of heart disease in lupus patients and is also beneficial in decreasing the risk of osteoporosis. Exercise can also be helpful in managing fatigue and pain and improving overall quality of life for people with lupus.

How Does Exercise Help Lupus Patients?

Here are a few ways that exercise can benefit people with lupus:

  1. Fatigue. Being physically active helps prevent fatigue, a major symptom of lupus. Studies have shown that lupus patients who participate in an aerobic exercise program are able to reduce their level of fatigue and have more energy throughout the day.
  2. Cardiovascular benefits. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with lupus. If you have lupus, you’re at risk of getting heart disease up to 20 years sooner than the general population. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise like walking or biking, can decrease your risk of heart disease.
  3. Obesity. Obesity is a common problem in people with lupus. Obesity can increase your level of pain, put more strain on inflamed joints, increase your risk of heart disease, and make your fatigue worse.
  4. Osteoporosis. Women with lupus are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis. Loss of bone mass has been reported to be as high as 46 percent in these patients. Weight-bearing physical exercise is an important part of osteoporosis prevention.
  5. Sleep disturbances. People with lupus have more problems sleeping than the general population. This can add to lupus fatigue and stress. Many studies show that aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to improve sleep.
  6. Quality of life. Because lupus is a chronic and unpredictable disease, it can produce stress and anxiety. Aerobic exercise has been found to reduce depression in people with lupus and improve their overall sense of well-being.

What Kinds of Exercise Work Best?

Exercise regimens that focus on muscle strengthening and improving endurance are best. Some examples are swimming, walking, low impact aerobics, and bicycling.

  1. Muscle training. Muscle strengthening exercises include isometric exercises where you contract your muscles without movement and and isotonic exercises where you include movement, as in weight training.
  2. Be flexible. Flexibility exercises are important in maintaining the full range of motion of your joints. Exercises that stretch your muscles and increase flexibility include Pilates and yoga.
  3. Movement therapies. These exercises combine physical movement and techniques to calm the mind. They have been shown to increase flexibly and help relieve pain. Yoga can also be included here, as well as tai chi and qigong.
  4. Aerobic exercise. These are activities that increase your heart rate and help build endurance. For aerobic exercise to benefit your heart, you want to get up to about 30 to 50 minutes of exercise at least three times per week.

Avoiding Exercise Risks

Each person with lupus will have different levels of exercise ability. It may also be appropriate if you are unsure what type of exercise is best for you to consider a consultation with a physical therapist.

Another option is to take part in an organized exercise program. This can be a good way to socialize, become active in your treatment, and get support and encouragement. People who exercise in groups often see better results and stay with their exercise program longer.

The level of exercise that’s safe for you may change if your lupus symptoms become more active. If you have a flare of your lupus symptoms, you may need to reduce or stop your exercise activity to prevent damage to inflamed joints and muscles and to avoid fatigue.

Although exercise can help prevent fatigue, too much exercise can trigger a lupus flare-up. You’ll need to find the right balance and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Always check with your doctor to see what level of exercise is best for you.

The Best Ways To Protect Your Eyes In Winter

young African American woman in fur hooded coat winter

(BlackDoctor.org) — Winter can be especially harsh on your eyes. Damaging sun reflections off snow and dry indoor air conditions can irritate your eyes and impair your vision.

Here’s how you can care for your eye health this season and help prevent long-term eye health problems, such as a damaged cornea or cataracts.

Problem 1: Dry Air Conditions

The most common eye complaint in winter is dryness, which creates a burning or itchy sensation or the feeling that a foreign object is in your eye. The cause may be the lower humidity levels inside your home or office when the heat is on and the windows are closed. Spending time outside on windy winter days can also have a drying effect.

People who wear contact lenses are the ones most likely to experience this problem, but it can affect anyone, particularly peri- and post-menopausal women who may have eye dryness because of loss of estrogen. “Sometimes people come in complaining that their eyes are watering too much,” says Dr. Pierre Faber, chair of the department of ophthalmology at Providence Health Care in Vancouver. “That’s because their eyes don’t tear as they should and when they get dry and irritated, it makes them water like crazy.” Over time, dryness can cause blurred vision or damage the cornea, which can also lead to blurriness.

What can you do?

• Moisten your eyes. Drink extra fluids and use a hot- or cold-air humidifier while you’re awake and your eyes are open.

• Add tears. Lubricating eye drops provide comfort. “These saline or tear gels or ocular lubricant drops, available over the counter at drugstores, help supplement the natural tear layer and keep the tears from evaporating so quickly,” explains Ralph Chou, an associate professor in the school of optometry at the University of Waterloo.

• Blink more. When you’re concentrating on a complex visual task, such as using a computer, you just don’t blink as often, which can exacerbate winter dryness, says Chou. If your eyes feel dry at work, make a point of blinking more often.

• Wear glasses. If you’re outdoors on a blustery day, sunglasses will protect your eyes from the drying effects of the wind.

Problem 2: Sun On Ice or Snow

When you spend several hours or more skiing, skating or shovelling snow, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun’s reflection on ice or snow can damage the eye’s surface, causing an inflammation of the cornea called keratitis, says Dr. Lorne Bellan, head of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Manitoba and president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society.

Keratitis makes the eyes red, sore and sensitive to light, and may require treatment with antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection. Too much exposure to UV light also plays a key role in the formation of cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Extreme cold is usually not an issue, as our eyes have built-in defences against cold, including tearing up and squinting.

What can you do?

• Shield them. Wear sunglasses that protect against UV light. “New snow on a ski slope has an almost 100 percent reflection of UV light, so you’re getting a double dose of sun—from above and below,” says Chou. Look for glasses with a minimum UV 400 protection (they block both UVA and UVB). And make sure every family member wears them. Since cataracts are the result of cumulative damage, even children should don sunglasses on bright winter days, says Faber. When skiing, wear goggles that have polycarbonate lenses, which block UV radiation.

• Limit time outdoors. If you’ve forgotten your goggles or sunglasses, don’t spend more than a few hours outdoors on sunny or bright overcast days.

While cooler weather can create some unique challenges, especially when it comes to more sensitive areas of your body, like your eyes, taking a few extra steps can help protect your health.

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