By: Researcher Taymur
Understanding MS and Lupus
Multiple sclerosis (MS) and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) are both serious diseases resulting from a failure to function properly in the body’s immune system.
In MS, myelin, the protective layer around your nerves is damaged by the body’s immune system. It interferes with your brain’s contact with the rest of your body. The effect is a variety of symptoms, for example:
- bowel and bladder problems
- weakness in the limbs
- numbness in the limbs
- vision problems
Physicians are debating whether MS should be considered an autoimmune disorder. The MS material that would activate the immune response of the body (the antigen) has not yet been identified by scientists.
Rather than an “autoimmune disease,” MS is sometimes referred to as an “immune-mediated” condition.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that responds to healthy antigens by the immune system. These are proteins that activate the immune response of the body.
It’s as if the immune system can’t tell the difference that the immune system is supposed to attack between antigens that are supposed to be in the body and pathogens or other foreign “invaders.”
The immune system attacks different parts of your body with lupus, such as:
- internal organs
Understanding the Link Between Lupus and MS
Usually, doctors determine you have MS by eliminating other conditions, such as lupus. It can be difficult to diagnose both MS and lupus. Diseases such as lupus and another autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may also overlap.
These diseases also tend to “cluster” in families, which means you may have one autoimmune disease while a sibling or parent has another type of disease.
While MS and lupus are unlikely to occur, it is common for someone with MS to be misdiagnosed with lupus because of common symptoms of these diseases.
MS has several other “mimic” conditions, apart from lupus, including Lyme disease. Part of the confusion is that MS does not have a single diagnostic test.
Understanding MS and Lupus Management
It is not possible to cure either lupus or MS. A variety of drugs can help control symptoms. If you have both conditions, some treatments and changes in lifestyle can help both of you:
- Have a lot of rest. Rest often helps to shorten a flare and can help you cope with symptoms of weakness and fatigue.
- Commit to regular physical exercise. This can sometimes help you get faster through a lupus flare, and if you deal with MS symptoms, it can help improve your strength and coordination.
- Eat a good diet. For everyone, a healthy diet is recommended. But there may be some dietary restrictions for people with lupus. People with MS may also be advised in their diet to get more vitamin D.
- Practice relief from stress. Taking a meditation class or learning breathing techniques for relaxation can help you cope with a chronic illness. For people with lupus, learning to de-stress may be even more important, as stress can trigger flares.
How the development of lupus and MS in an adult is hard to predict. You may have moderate lupus all your life, or to be very severe, it may improve. MS symptoms may also become severe over time, but your life expectancy is usually not affected by the disease itself.
If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, or you feel something “just isn’t right,” don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.
To decide what’s wrong, it may take some time and a number of tests. But the faster you can start treating it, the sooner you know what you’re dealing with.
Diagnosis and treatment affect both MS and lupus. If you experience symptoms, being proactive about your health and engaging with your doctor can help you meet this challenge.