Lupus

How homeopathy can be an effective treatment

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is  multisystem autoimmune disease. This means that the symptoms are caused  by the immune system attacking the body, and almost every organ can be  affected. Lupus (Latin for wolf) takes its name from the fact that it  can cause rashes across the cheeks and nose, said to resemble the face  of a wolf.

Although this can be a very difficult condition to treat because so  many different parts of the body are involved, a holistic approach such  as homeopathy may prove to be very effective.

Autoimmune disease

An autoimmune disease occurs when the body mounts an immune response  against its own parts. Other examples of autoimmune diseases include  Crohn’s, diabetes, coelic disease, thyroditis, multi­ple sclerosis and  rheumatoid arthritis.

The cause of these diseases is far from clear. Certain individuals  may be pre­disposed to developing them and, with the exception of  ankylosing spondylitis, women are more susceptible. Environ­mental  factors almost certainly play a role, and it is notable that in areas of  the world where infectious diseases are endemic, the incidence of  autoimmune disease is significantly lower.

Common symptoms of lupus

Lupus usually starts with joint pains, especially in the small  joints of the hands and feet, which may flit from one set of joints to  another. Skin rashes are also common and these are often made worse when  exposed to strong sunlight. Patients will usually have fever, malaise,  weight loss and often feel completely exhausted and fatigue easily.  Lymph glands in the neck and other parts of the body are often tender  and swollen, and muscles may ache and become tender to the touch. All of  these symptoms may be caused by a number of different con­ditions, and  lupus is often difficult to diagnose on the symptoms alone.

Who gets lupus?

Lupus affects mainly young women and is in fact nine times more  commonly found in women. It is rare to make the diagnosis after the age  of 60 although it can affect both sexes at any age. In Europe and  America, it is much more common in women of Afro-Caribbean origin than  in white women, although the condition is rarely found in Africa.

What causes lupus to develop?

The honest answer is that no one knows what causes an individual to  develop lupus, and it is probable that this is a multifactorial disease.  There is a genetic predisposition, for example if an indi­vidual is  diagnosed with the condition there is a one in twenty chance that a  sibling will develop lupus. This risk is increased to nearly one in  three if identical twins are involved. Certain gene patterns have been  identified which may make an individual more suscepti­ble. A number of  drugs including certain antihypertensives, antifungal agents and  antibiotics may act as a trigger for devel­oping lupus or a related  condition. It is also possible that viruses may cause lupus to develop.

Which parts of the body can be affected?

Virtually any part of the body can be in­volved. Commonly affected organs are:

Blood and lymphatic system

The bone marrow may be affected giving anaemia and a low platelet  count which will cause tiredness and easy bruising. A specific antibody  called antiphos­pholipid antibody may be present in the blood stream  which can predispose to blood clots and has been associated with an  increased rate of miscarriage in pregnancy.

Joints

Pain and swelling in the joints is com­mon. Although this can be  distressing, it is unusual for joint damage or long-term deformity to  occur.

Skin

Apart from the facial rash described earlier, the skin may become  hyper­sensitive to sunlight (photosensitivity) and rashes often occur in  areas which are more commonly exposed to the sun, such as the forearms  and hands. Hair loss (alopecia) may occur although this is often mild  and patchy and the hair usually re-grows.

Heart & lungs

Rarely these organs are affected. More commonly the linings of the heart  or lungs, the pericardium or the pleura may become inflamed giving  pericarditis or pleurisy. Symptoms may include breath­lessness or sharp  pains on taking a deep breath.

Brain and nervous system

Migraine may affect up to one in three people with lupus. Fatigue and depres­sion are also frequently a problem.

Kidneys

One in three patients with lupus may have some form of kidney  disease. This is usually mild inflammation which rarely causes serious  problems or significant damage to the kidneys, but does need to be  monitored.

Other organs

The digestive system and the eyes are less commonly affected.

Diagnosis

Although a lot is now known about this condition there is still no  single diag­nostic test. Specific antibodies in the blood are usually  present and the detection of these antibodies in combi­nation with the  symptoms described earlier go towards confirming the diag­nosis of  lupus.

Conventional treatment

There is no known “cure” for this con­dition and conventional  treatment is directed towards controlling the disease and its symptoms.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen and  Diclofenac are used to control joint pains. These drugs can have  side-effects including irritating the stomach lining. Some of the newer  NSAIDs, known as Cox-2 drugs, are less likely to irritate the stomach  but may slightly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Corticosteroids may be given to con­trol pericarditis and  inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis). These are very effec­tive but  in longer-term use may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and  diabetes. Steroids are therefore given in the lowest effective dose and  ideally for short periods. Other drugs may be given to suppress the  immune system during a flare up of lupus.

Contraception

There is evidence that oestrogen may cause lupus to flare up, and  the pro­gesterone only pill is considered to be a better option than the  “combined pill” which contains both oestrogen and pro­gesterone.  Similarly the oestrogen found in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may  have the same adverse effects.

Pregnancy

The presence of antiphospholipid anti­bodies in the blood does give  an increased risk of miscarriage and obstetricians will often recommend  taking 75mg aspirin daily during the pregnancy. Expert advice should  always be sought regard­ing this.

A holistic approach

In conditions of this kind, where almost every organ and system may  be affected, a holistic approach will always give the best results. The  homeopathic approach involves taking account of all symptoms, physical,  emotional and mental, and thus is well suited to treating a multi­system  disease such as lupus.

Self help

Simple measures can often dramatically improve symptoms of lupus flare-ups and these may include:

Rest & relaxation

Lupus can be exacerbated by stress and it is very important to lead a  balanced life with a protected time built into each day for rest and  relaxation.

Sun protection

Many of the rashes and skin conditions which occur frequently with  lupus are exacerbated by sunlight, and it is essen­tial to limit sun  exposure. A good qual­ity sunscreen with at least factor 25 protection  should be worn.

Avoidance of unnecessary exposure to infection

Lupus can have an adverse affect on the immune system, and the  immune sup­pressing drugs that are often used dur­ing symptom flare-ups  can make the body even more susceptible to infection. Clearly we are  continually exposed to viruses on the bus, train, in the work­place etc  on a daily basis, and short of spending 24 hours a day in a bubble it is  impossible to live in an infection-free environment. It is important  however to take sensible precautions and avoid those family and friends  with obvious known infectious diseases, especially chickenpox.

Diet

A diet low in saturated animal fat may be helpful in reducing joint  pains and inflammation and will certainly improve overall health and  wellbeing. There is some evidence to suggest that fish oil supplements  may be useful.

Health & homeopathy

George Vithoulkas, the eminent Greek homeopath, describes levels of  health. A person whose health is in the upper­most level will experience  no symptoms and enjoy perfect health and happiness. As we descend the  levels, minor often self-limiting symptoms will develop. These are  caused by exposure to environmental in­fluences like viruses or stress.  The immune system is able to deal with this and the symptoms resolve  spontaneously. At this stage there is merely dysfunction of the organs  and the body heals itself. Moving further down the levels, symptoms  devel­op which don’t disappear and chronic disease takes hold. Good  homeopathic prescribing on a constitutional level can prevent this  deterioration in health.

Constitutional treatment

Individuals can be classified according to the characteristic  reaction patterns of body. For example, somebody who has a phosphoric  constitution will experience pain as a burning sensation. These  individuals are very anxious and indeed may become overwhelmed and  “burnt out” by their anxieties.

Thus a Phosphorus patient who develops lupus will have a tremendous  anxiety about her health, will be very fearful, especially when alone  and is particularly frightened of thunderstorms. The pains in her joints  and muscles will be described as “burning”. Pain in other parts of the  body (eg migrainous head­aches) will also have a burning quality.

A patient with a Nux vomica cons­titution will experience the same  disease in a very different way. She is usually a very driven ambitious  person who may lie awake at night worrying about her business affairs,  and will become very angry and frustrated with her illness. Typically,  relapses in the condition will follow periods of overworking and stress.  Joint pains will be worse at night in bed, worse for cold and better  for warmth.

A Pulsatilla patient will again present a  different picture. She will be a soft gentle person who weeps easily  and may be particularly tearful during flare-ups. She will require lots  of comforting and consolation. One of the main charac­teristics of  Pulsatilla is “changeability” and the aches and pains of lupus may be  experienced as throbbing one day and stabbing the next.

The constitutional approach is usually the most effective when treating a multi­system disease such as lupus.

Local remedies

Flare-ups of lupus may affect different parts and organs at  different times, and homeopathic remedies may be very useful in  alleviating symptoms.

 Joint pains:

A large number of homeopathic remedies can help joint pains:

Aconite: sudden severe joint pains which may occur following exposure to a cold dry wind. Hot tender joints.

Apis: hot swollen red inflamed joints. Relieved by cold applications.

Bryonia: sharp stitching joint and muscle pain worse with even the slightest move­ment.

Dulcamara: joint pains occurring in cold damp weather, better with heat and motion.

Rhus tox: painful stiff joints, worse with initial movement (eg on rising from bed), better with continued motion.

Rhododendron: joint pain worse in wet weather, especially before a storm.

Ruta: stiff painful joints and tendons especially following overuse. Worse from cold and damp.

Skin

Homeopathic medicines can be used to treat the cutaneous manifestations of lupus.

Apis: red burning rashes, often associ­ated with fluid retention and swelling (oedema). Better from cold applications.

Fluoric acid: hair loss especially alope­cia areata.

Sepia: yellow/brown “saddle” across the bridge of the nose.

Sulphur: red itchy rashes. Worse with heat, especially the heat of the bed at night. Worse at night. Worse for bathing.

Lungs

Pleurisy may develop during flare-up of lupus. The following remedies may be useful in helping to control the pain.

Aconite: sudden onset of sharp pains, especially after fright or shock. Worse after exposure to cold dry wind.

Bryonia: stitching pains (such as found in pleurisy) worse from the slightest movement.

Migraine

Many homeopathic remedies are help­ful in the treatment of these headaches.

Belladonna: intense throbbing head pains beginning in the  right occiput and extending forwards to the right eye. Worse at 3.00pm.  Worse with any jar­ring. Better lying still in a dark room.

Natrum muriaticum: bursting pain, some­times described as a small hammer in one spot. Worse around 10.00am. Aggravated by sunlight.

Spigelia: stitching neuralgic pain on the left side in or above the left eye. Better with heat or hot bathing.

The cause of autoimmune disease re­mains unclear but the incidence  and prevalence of these illnesses is clearly rising. This rise is  mirrored by the increasing occurence of atopic diseases such as asthma  and eczema. Studies have shown that the use of antibiotics in the first  twelve months of a child’s life can lead to a threefold increase in the  risk of developing asthma. Is it possible that the drive to minimise our  exposure and risk from infectious diseases is actually leav­ing our  immune systems with nothing to do other than attack our own organs?