Living with Chronic Pain
Tips for Living With an Autoimmune Disorder
The immune system is designed to fight off foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. When an autoimmune disease is present, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. An autoimmune disorder can affect a specific part of the body or the entire body.
Approximately 50 million Americans live with at least one autoimmune disorder. Although symptoms vary depending on the specific autoimmune condition, some of the earliest and most common symptoms of many autoimmune disorders include fatigue, pain, depression and anxiety.
Living with an autoimmune disorder can be challenging. Below are some tips to deal with issues that often accompany living with an autoimmune disorder.
Tips for managing fatigue
- Learn to self-pace. Prioritize activities and note when certain activities are especially draining. Activity pacing is a valuable tool to learn.
- Be physically active. Physical activity can boost energy. Consult a health care professional about what physical activities are recommended.
- Eat healthy foods. In general, a healthy and balanced diet is beneficial to overall health. For some types of autoimmune disorders, avoiding certain foods and increasing the consumption of others can be helpful. Consult a health care professional or dietician for food choice recommendations.
Tips for managing pain and flares
- Get enough sleep. Inadequate sleep can increase inflammation. Poor quality sleep also tends to exacerbate pain. Naps may be necessary to compensate for lost sleep.
- Communicate with doctors. Contact a doctor if symptoms become worse. Try to attend all regularly scheduled appointments.
- Keep a journal. Journaling may help to identify pain triggers.
Tips for maintaining mental health
- Minimize stress. Stress can increase inflammation in the body.
- Build a support system. In-person support groups and online support groups may be helpful.
- Seek professional help. Talking with a trained professional can provide emotional relief. A mental health professional can help identify coping strategies to help manage symptoms.
For more tips, listen to this podcast from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.