Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients’ Lifestyle May Impact Disease Activity

Patricia Inacio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inacio, PhD |

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SLE and lifestyle habits

In a recent study entitled “Healthy lifestyle habits for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: A systemic review,” researchers identified how the lifestyle habits of systemic lupus erythematosus patients impact disease pathogenesis. The study was published in the Seminars in Arthritis & Rheumatism journal.

Researchers performed a systematic literature review to determine how lifestyle habits impact systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disease activity. The team searched for articles in the electronic databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, and SCI/SSCI published until June 2015, and revised a total of 18 studies focusing on the effects of tobacco consumption, physical exercise, and diet on health outcomes of SLE patients.

Results revealed that SLE patients who smoke have an increased risk for disease activity accompanied by skin manifestations when compared to patients that do not smoke. The manifestations became more serious with a more intense and prolonged tobacco use. These effects are similar to those obtained for patients with cutaneous lupus erythematosus.

Studies focusing in physical activity recognize that aerobic exercise programs are both safe and efficient at improving an SLE patient’s physical condition. In particular, one study found that exercise might benefit patients’ symptoms, describing a reduction in fatigue levels and a decrease in depression, anxiety, pain, and poor quality of sleep. However, the authors highlight that these findings were only found in one study.

Little evidence exists on the effects of specific diets in SLE patients, either to reduce cardiovascular risk factors or  to slow disease progression and improve quality of life. However, two studies have suggested that dietary supplements of EPA and DHA fatty acids have a positive, albeit small, effect on SLE, specifically in reducing cardiovascular and inflammatory risk markers and SLE disease activity. As such, fish oils rich in omega-3 acids may benefit SLE patients. The team notes, however, that both diet and exercise studies were performed on patients with low- or moderate-SLE activity; whether these effects are maintained in patients with more severe levels of the disease remains to be determined.