Learning to Live with Lupus
By: Kristin Shives
TRICARE Management Activity
May is Lupus awareness month. Lupus is a disease that can be mild or life-threatening depending on a person’s present status. With proper medical care and knowledge, most people can manage a healthy life with lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. A healthy body produces proteins called antibodies that protect against viruses, bacteria and foreign invaders known as antigens. Lupus causes a body to have trouble telling the difference between antigens and its own cells and tissue. In turn, the body makes antibodies and attacks itself. These attacks can cause inflammation, pain and damage to organs.
Lupus is not easy to diagnose because it mimics other illnesses. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, diagnosing lupus is based on a combination of physical symptoms and laboratory results. It’s important to know symptoms of lupus, and be aware of the risks associated with the disease.
Fatigue and non-specific pain are common with lupus and usually go unnoticed in the beginning stages. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people suffering from lupus have symptoms that include; muscle and joint pain, anemia, chest pain, rashes, hair loss, light sensitivity, and mouth or nose ulcers.
Treatment of lupus depends on age, symptoms, general health and lifestyle. The purpose of treatment is to reduce inflammation, suppress an overactive immune system, prevent flares, control joint pain and fatigue and minimize damage to organs. Regular evaluations are needed to check if the disease flares up. There are medications to treat lupus and TRICARE covers several of these medications. Use the formulary search tool to find covered medications.
Beneficiaries on TRICARE Prime should speak with their primary care manager (PCM) if they notice any of these symptoms. A PCM referral is required to seek care from a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists specialize in diseases of joints and muscles. Beneficiaries on TRICARE Standard must use a TRICARE-authorized provider.
Beneficiaries who want to learn more about lupus and how it can be treated can visit www.couldihavelupus.gov or www.lupus.org. For more information on making appointments, referrals and prior authorization go to www.tricare.mil/GettingCare.
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The TRICARE Management Activity administers the worldwide health care plan for 9.6 million eligible beneficiaries of the uniformed services, retirees and their families.