September 7, 2010 in Features

Dr. Gott: Treatment for lupus seeks to control pain

Peter H. Gott, M.D.

DEAR DR. GOTT: Since childhood, I have been suffering with tonsillitis, chronic colds and allergies – both seasonal and medication-induced. At age 24, I was diagnosed with discoid lupus; at 30, with fibromyalgia, pleurisy, kidney stones/infection, vertigo, depression and anxiety.

My ANA test for three years has come back normal, but I continue to get lesions, my hair falls out, and I get sick easily. I have been to two rheumatologists. Both say I do not have SLE, but my family doctor feels I do. What do you think?

I was also told that because I only have discoid lupus, this would not cause any health problems other than with my skin and hair. So why do I have it in my nose and inside both ears? I’m now 33, my bones are brittle, and I have osteoarthritis in my hands and fingers. Help!

DEAR READER: Whew, where to start? Some children have impaired immune systems, making them subject to numerous disorders. My guess is that you were unfortunate enough to fall into that category.

There are a number of forms of lupus, which is an autoimmune disease. Lupus can affect joints, skin, kidneys, brain, heart, lungs and other parts of the body. Common symptoms include skin rash, kidney problems, arthritis and unexplained fever.

Discoid lupus is a chronic skin disorder that shows as a raised red rash that ordinarily appears on the face and scalp but can appear in other areas of the body, including the nose and ears. The lesions may last for days or years and can recur. Some people diagnosed with discoid lupus may develop systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) at a later date.

Because arthritis is a common complaint, it’s not at all surprising that you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic pain in muscles and ligaments.

Pleurisy is swelling of the lung linings that causes pain and breathlessness during inhalation and exhalation. Causes include acute viral infections, such as influenza, and can be the result of autoimmune disorders, such as lupus.

Kidney stones and related infections have numerous causes, including dehydration, obesity, genetic factors and a diet high in protein/sugar/sodium.

Vertigo can be caused by an inner-ear disorder, migraine headache, acoustic neuroma and other causes.

Depression and anxiety can be caused by lupus, fibromyalgia, kidney stones and vertigo. You have a lot on your plate, and it has obviously resulted in a lot of stress. Osteoarthritis, a breakdown of cartilage, causes pain and stiffness of affected joints. The condition is commonly associated with the aging process, but at 33, you are far from old. Treatment is geared toward controlling pain through medication, rest, exercise and protection of the affected joint(s).

Because so many of your symptoms involve pain, I suggest that you be referred to a pain clinic for control or request a referral to a larger diagnostic center, such as the Mayo Clinic. You will learn methods for reducing the level of pain that may include water aerobics and yoga. Appropriate medication might be ordered. Once you get that aspect under control, the anxiety and stress levels you are under may be reduced.

To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Fibromyalgia.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my website at

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