Newswise — ROSEMONT, Ill. (April 21, 2020) — Medications for lupus — a long-term autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s immune system attacks different parts of their body, including their skin — are currently being explored as a treatment for COVID-19 patients. This may significantly limit access to the drugs by those who depend on it to manage their health conditions.
Hydroxychloroquine is the cornerstone of therapy for most lupus patients and the only medication shown to increase survival in patients with systemic lupus, the most common form of lupus. The American Academy of Dermatology, along with the Lupus Foundation of America, the American College of Rheumatology, and the Arthritis Foundation, are advocating for access on behalf of lupus patients at all levels of government and the drug supply chain.
“Without access to these medications, a lot of lupus patients will have difficulties controlling their symptoms, which could cause their lupus to worsen and increase their risk for kidney disease and flare-ups, such as painful or swollen joints,” says board-certified dermatologist Allison K. Arthur, MD, FAAD. “These medications offer stability to many patients managing their lupus.”
While nothing can substitute for an effective treatment agreed upon between a patient and their physician, practicing certain health habits may prevent the condition from worsening and lessen the risk of long-term side effects. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends patients consider the following to reduce flares and stay healthy:
- Minimize exposure to UV light: Protect yourself from the sun by seeking shade as much as possible, wearing sun-protective clothing — including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses — and applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember that even a short amount of time in the sun can cause lupus to flare.
- Do what you can to manage your stress: This is an unprecedented time in which stress is nearly impossible to avoid. However, stress is a common trigger for flares; it’s important to find what works for you to manage your stress levels.
- Keep in contact with your physician: During this global health crisis, dermatologists are working hard to care for patients via telemedicine. Your dermatologist can help adjust your treatment plan, if needed.
- Practice social distancing: Currently, there is no clear evidence that patients currently taking hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine are protected against COVID-19. To reduce your chances of getting and spreading the virus, follow CDC guidance: practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
“Although there are many different types of lupus, roughly two-thirds of lupus patients experience symptoms on the skin, which can include rashes, scaly patches, sores or even flare-ups that look like sunburn,” says Dr. Arthur. “If you’re having a difficult time controlling your flare-ups, especially during the pandemic, talk to your dermatologist, who can help.”
For more information on how lupus affects the skin, visit aad.org/lupus.
A new video, posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel offers additional tips for patients on “How to Care for Your Skin If You Have Lupus.” This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.
To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.
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About the AAD
Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).