Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation throughout the body. Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system - the body’s natural defense system against infection and illness - mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. The effects of lupus vary from person to person. Symptoms of lupus may develop suddenly or slowly and may be mild or severe. For some, the symptoms of lupus are permanent, whereas others may experience temporary effects. Because of this, and because the effects of the disease are so similar to the effects of other conditions, lupus can be difficult to diagnose.
The common signs and symptoms of lupus include:
Sensitivity to sunlight
Swelling in the joints, hands, or feet
Chest pain or shortness of breath
Lesions on the skin or in the mouth
Many people with lupus develop a butterfly-shaped rash that spreads across the cheeks and over the nose.
Lupus affects men, women, and children, but the disease is most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of 15 and 45. It is also more prevalent among African American, Hispanic, and Asian American women than Caucasian women. The diagnosis process for lupus can be prolonged and difficult, as the symptoms above are associated with several other conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. Usually, doctors will perform a series of lab tests to determine whether or not your symptoms are being caused by the disease.
Lupus is a chronic condition that can affect your quality of life and damage your internal organs. While there is no cure for lupus, there are a number of treatment options that can help keep symptoms in remission (reduced) and manageable.
Lupus is a life-long condition that has no cure. However, there are a number of treatment options that can help manage symptoms and minimize the damage that the disease does to the body. Below is a list of common treatments meant to improve your quality of life and reduce the effects of lupus. During your appointment, talk to your provider about the treatment plan that is right for you.
Medications used to treat lupus include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help reduce swelling and relieve pain caused by lupus. These drugs are available over-the-counter at prescription strength. Overuse of NSAIDs can cause harmful adverse effects, so talk to your doctor about dosage and use before starting treatment.
- Steroids: Corticosteroids (like prednisone) can help combat inflammation caused by lupus. Corticosteroid creams can be applied to lesions or rashes on the skin to speed up recovery. If lupus is starting to damage internal organs like the kidneys or the brain, doctors may prescribe a stronger steroid as treatment. The risk of adverse effects is increased with higher strengths and long-term usage, so talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of starting steroidal treatment for lupus.
- Hydroxychloroquine: Commonly used as an antimalarial medication, hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) may be prescribed to control joint pain and fever caused by lupus flares.
- Immunosuppressants: Chemotherapy medication like azathioprine (Imuran), mycophenolate (CellCept), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) may be prescribed for serious cases of lupus. Immunosuppressants control the activity of the immune system and may help prevent lupus from damaging internal organs. These drugs may cause serious adverse effects, so talk to your doctor about whether or not immunosuppressant therapy is right for you.
There are a number of self-care methods and lifestyle changes that you can use to relieve pain and improve your quality of life while you manage the symptoms of lupus. These practices will not cure lupus, but they can make it easier to cope with the disease. These remedies include:
- Avoid sun exposure. Sunlight and UV rays can trigger a lupus flare, so be sure to wear sunscreen and protective clothing when you go outside. If you can avoid the peak hours of sunlight, do so. If not, make sure your skin and eyes are protected from sun exposure.
- See your doctor regularly. Because lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage your internal organs, regular checkups with your doctor are encouraged. During your appointments, talk to your doctor about healthy habits, stress management, and methods to prevent lupus flares.
- Exercise. Even though lupus can cause joint pain, regular exercise will keep your bones and muscles strong. This can maintain your quality of life and mobility. Additionally, regular exercise promotes general wellness and heart health. There is some correlation between lupus and heart disease, so maintaining cardiovascular health can help prevent serious complications in the future.
What are autoimmune disorders?
Autoimmune disorders occur when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. The cause of these conditions is unknown, but they are commonly passed through genetics. As your immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body, it causes inflammation in the affected area (usually the joints). Common autoimmune disorders include:
Psoriasis/ psoriatic arthritis
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Type 1 diabetes
Each of these conditions affects different areas of the body and results in diverse symptoms. Most autoimmune diseases cause physical pain, inflammation, fatigue, and swelling in the affected area. Many of these conditions are chronic, meaning that they persist throughout a lifetime. There is no cure for many of these conditions, but they can be managed and treated with help from a rheumatologist and other specialists.
What is a rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions, and other autoimmune diseases.
When should I see a rheumatologist?
Your primary care provider may recommend that you see a rheumatology specialist if they suspect that you have an autoimmune disorder or a complex musculoskeletal condition that requires specialized treatment.
Additionally, if you have a family history of arthritis or other autoimmune disorders, you may want to ask your primary care provider about a recommendation for a rheumatologist. Genetics - conditions being passed down through your family - is the biggest risk factor for the development of these disorders.
Undiagnosed and untreated autoimmune disorders can lead to significant joint damage. Early detection of an autoimmune disorder can help avoid worsening symptoms, such as joint pain and mobility loss. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms detailed above, or if you have a family history of these disorders, talk to your primary care provider about a recommendation for a rheumatologist.
What are some conditions rheumatologists treat?
Rheumatologists complete nearly 10 years of schooling to specialize in rheumatic diseases and autoimmune disorders. Some conditions a rheumatologist may diagnose or treat include:
What can I expect at my rheumatology appointment?
A rheumatologist will talk to you about your medical history, family history of autoimmune disorders, and what symptoms you are experiencing before conducting a physical examination. Physical exams are crucial in helping providers detect symptoms or signs of conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Autoimmune conditions can be hard to diagnose in their early stages, so the rheumatologist may order follow-up testing to better determine the cause of your symptoms. These diagnostic tests include:
Once the rheumatologist has examined your test results, they will work with you to create a treatment plan that can help you manage your symptoms. If surgery is needed, they may recommend an orthopedic surgeon to correct any musculoskeletal damage causing you pain.
Do rheumatologists perform surgery?
No. Rheumatologists can perform diagnostic tests and physical examinations to diagnose autoimmune conditions and musculoskeletal problems, but they are not surgeons. These specialists are able to prescribe medication, administer steroid injections, and refer you to other specialists if needed.
If after your examination your rheumatologist determines that you may benefit from surgery, they will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon - a specialist in surgery of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Should I see a doctor in-person or online?
It depends. Telehealth platforms like Sesame make it easier than ever to see a doctor online from the comfort of your home through virtual visits. These are real-time video chats with doctors and providers that are used to address symptoms, discuss prescriptions, and screen for health care conditions. Telehealth (also known as telemedicine) is a convenient way to see a health care provider without requiring the commute and waiting rooms of office visits.
In-person visits, however, are vital health services. Certain conditions and specialty care services cannot be diagnosed or performed via a telehealth visit. Lab testing, for instance, often requires an in-person appointment at a doctor's office. Similarly, some physical exams, chronic condition consultations, and urgent care needs require in-person care. Some patients feel more comfortable receiving their care through in-person doctor visits, and many telehealth services require in-person visits before a condition can be definitively diagnosed.
Health care marketplaces like Sesame offer both in-person and virtual care options. If you're unsure whether or not you need to see a provider face-to-face, we recommend that you book a video doctor visit to discuss your concerns and talk through any symptoms you may be experiencing. If an in-person doctor appointment is required, you can easily book a visit through Sesame's scheduling platform.
What types of telehealth care can I book through Sesame?
It is up to the provider to determine what services they offer through a virtual appointment. Examples of care you can find on marketplaces like Sesame include:
Urgent care (for conditions such as rashes, sore throat, migraines, UTIs, and more)
Sexual health consultations
Mental health consultations
Chronic condition management
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not use telehealth. Instead, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately.
Is there anything doctors on Sesame won’t treat?
Any service listed on Sesame can be treated by doctors on the platform. Any specific exclusions to an appointment can be found in the service description. Telehealth appointments will not result in a prescription for controlled substances. If you are looking for a prescription for controlled substances, you should find a local clinician with whom you can establish an in-person relationship.
How do I book a telehealth appointment?
To book a virtual visit through Sesame, visit Sesamecare.com. Use our search bar to look up the issue you may need addressed (such as "Prescription Refill", "Sore Throat", or "Urgent Care"). From there, you can browse relevant providers and our transparent prices to find the clinician or doctor that you want to see - at the price you want to pay. You can look at that provider's availability to schedule a virtual visit that works for your schedule. Finally, pay for your appointment upfront and wait for the booking confirmation email to get the link to your appointment.
How do I access my telehealth appointment?
After you book a video appointment, you will receive both an initial confirmation and a reminder via email and text.
There are three ways in which a video visit can be accessed:
Select "Join virtual appointment" from the booking confirmation email.
If you have an existing account or created one at purchase, log in at sesamecare.com, navigate to 'My appointments,' and select "Join virtual appointment."
Click the link in the text message sent to you 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time.
We suggest using Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari to connect to your visit.
How can I prepare for my telehealth appointment?
After booking your telehealth appointment on Sesame, you will receive a link to test the phone, tablet, or computer where you will speak with your provider. Sesame will send you a unique and secure webpage for you to access your telehealth appointment directly from your web browser. In the rare case that you run into any technical issues, our friendly support team is available to walk you through any challenges.
Should I use my phone, tablet, or computer for my telehealth appointment?
You can use your phone, tablet, or computer for a telehealth appointment on Sesame. Sesame works on the web through your web browser - Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge or Firefox. It is easy to connect in just a few seconds with a quality Sesame provider who is ready to listen to your medical concerns.
Sesame supports face to face video communications, but turning on your video is not required if this makes you uncomfortable.
Can you get a doctor's prescription online?
Sesame makes it easier than ever to get a prescription or refill a prescription from the comfort of your own home! To discuss a new prescription or refill, book a video visit with a doctor on Sesame. Physicians on Sesame can prescribe drugs that help treat infections, allergies, high blood pressure, and more.
Note that doctors on Sesame cannot prescribe controlled substances
Plus, because Sesame works to set prices directly with doctors, you can find visits with doctors at rates up to 60% less than what you’ll find through insurance networks.
Book a video visit on Sesamecare.com based on the health care you need, and pick up a new prescription or existing prescription refill at a pharmacy of your choice. If you don’t want to go pick up a prescription in-person, many pharmacies offer a prescription mail service for home delivery. Your medication will be shipped directly to you. Browse services on Sesame, set up an appointment with a real doctor at your convenience, and get the care you need. It’s simple, convenient, and affordable. Book a visit today!
Can I get a prescription refilled?
Yes, you can book a video or in-person prescription refill appointment in which a provider will review current medications and prescribe a refill if necessary. Search appointments here.
Can I refill any medication over video?
Doctors on Sesame can refill most prescriptions for simple things like medication for diabetes and high blood pressure, antidepressants, birth control, and more. Doctors can't refill controlled substances over video. Yep, even if you've taken it for years.