Lupus: The Role of the Primary Care Physician. Part 3: Self-Management


In managing lupus, the primary care physician's more critical role may be to support and encourage the patient's ownership of the situation.

Aiming to improve outcomes for lupus patients, the American College of Rheumatology’s Lupus Initiative has launched a series of educational tools to assist in diagnosis and treatment of lupus in primary care. The focus is on coordination of care, as well as cultural competence and empowering patients.

This is the last article in a three-part series that provides an overview of the role of the primary care physician in diagnosis, treatment, and patient self-management.


Part 3: The Role of the Primary Care Physician in Patient Self-Management

The primary care physician’s most critical role in patient care may be that of supporting and encouraging the patient’s ownership and management of the disease. Healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent or minimize lupus flares and may help prevent more serious complications of lupus. 

Encourage your patients to:

•    Eat well. Encourage patients to eat a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet emphasizing vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious whole foods. They should minimize consumption of fast foods and other processed foods.
•    Exercise. Regular, moderate exercise can help relieve symptoms commonly associated with lupus and may help prevent flares. It may also help minimize risks for associated complications like hypertension and heart disease.
•    Rest. People with lupus should get plenty of restful sleep at night and should nap or rest during the day if needed.
•    Monitor sun exposure. Some lupus patients are extra sensitive to ultraviolet light, and too much exposure may trigger flares. Advise patients to minimize exposure during the hottest part of the day, and to wear sun screen and protective clothing.
•    Manage stress. Encourage patients to build a good support network of family and friends and to ask for help when needed. Relaxation exercises and stretching may also help.
•    Not smoke. Lupus sufferers who smoke should make quitting a top priority, with your active support. 

Finally, make patients aware of the resources available to assist in the self-management of their disease. Numerous tools and valuable information are available through the Lupus Initiative of the American College of Rheumatology. These include educational videos and a diary/checklist for monitoring symptoms between visits.

For more information, visit The Lupus Initiative at


Earlier articles in this series:

Lupus: The Role of the Primary Care Physician. Part 1: Diagnosis

Lupus: The Role of the Primary Care Physician: Part 2: Treatment

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