Lupus and mental health: New study discovers the disease doubles the risk of dementia, regardless of age

Sometime between 2012 and 2014, singer and actress Selena Gomez was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. According to a recent study, patients with lupus have double the risk of dementia.

The study comes after earlier research which determined that patients with lupus can suffer from memory and cognitive function impairments. The study authors warned that patients of all ages with lupus are “at higher risk to develop dementia,” and they advised doctors to keep an eye out for lupus should their patients show any signs of early onset dementia.

The researchers from Israel studied data from over 7,000 people and based on their findings, dementia was more common in patients with lupus than those without the disease. While lupus is widely known for the damage it causes to the kidneys, the symptoms of the disease can vary greatly, which makes it hard to diagnose. (Related: Alfalfa proven to lower cholesterol and shows promise in healing lupus.)

Patients with lupus report  a “lupus fog,” which involves “difficulty concentrating, remembering facts, and expressing oneself.” The fog can also include depression and anxiety, which may indicate a lupus flare up.

These symptoms are similar to those suffered by patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The latter affects at least 5.5 million people in the U.S. However, this study shows that even patients who do not have a neuropsychiatric form of lupus are at a higher risk of dementia.

In 2016, lupus made headlines when Selena Gomez revealed that she has the disease. The singer was first diagnosed with lupus in 2015. Gomez revealed her diagnosis in 2016 after symptoms like panic attacks and depression led to the early cancellation of her world tour.

About 80 percent of patients with lupus use corticosteroids as one of the primary treatments for the disease. Corticosteroids can help patients manage inflammation related to lupus and its flare-up. However, negative side effects of the treatment include weight fluctuations, memory loss, and cognitive impairment in individuals diagnosed with lupus.

The study authors state that there are currently no “known, safe treatments that address both lupus and cognitive difficulties.” They wrote, “The absence of durable solutions for this disability is frustrating given the young age distribution of [lupus] patients.” They concluded, “On the other hand, the fact that we have demonstrated young age onset of cognitive decline in [lupus] patients renders it at least to a certain degree reversible.”

Natural remedies for lupus

Lupus comes with all sorts of painful symptoms, and here are some natural remedies that you can try to help ease your suffering:

  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet – Because inflammation is the major symptom of lupus, eat foods that can help prevent it. Avoid processed foods, added sugar, gluten, trans fat, alcohol, caffeine, high-sodium foods, and certain legumes that contain the amino acid L-canavanine that can trigger lupus flare-ups. Eat more organic, unprocessed foods, foods high in antioxidants, coconut oil, raw milk, cucumbers and melons, green and herbal teas, and bone broth.
  • Exercise regularly – Regular exercise can help patients with lupus by reducing stress, improving sleep, strengthening the heart, reducing joint pain, and improving flexibility and range of motion. Exercise for at least 20 to 30 minutes, but don’t tire yourself out. Get enough rest after exercising.
  • Eat omega-3 fatty acids – Studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) in fish oil can help reduce inflammation.
  • Get enough vitamin D3 – Lupus patients have low to deficient levels of vitamin D. Get your vitamin D levels checked before you take supplements to determine the correct dose to take. Vitamin D can help “enhance immune system function, reduce depression, and facilitate hormone balance.”

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