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Can Acupuncture be Used for the Treatment of Lupus?

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause chronic inflammation in nearly any part of the body, including the kidneys, the central nervous system, blood vessels, lungs, heart and/or the skin. An autoimmune condition occurs when the natural disease-fighting agents in the body start attacking healthy tissue and cells, instead of foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. The full name of this disease is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

There is an extensive list of symptoms, so each patient suffering with lupus will present with a different set of symptoms. However, there is a short list of symptoms that may suggest a diagnosis of lupus. The first on this list is the presence of what is known as a 'butterfly rash' on the face. This rash resembles a butterfly with its wings spread, thereby inspiring its name. Many, but definitely not all patients will experience this symptom.

Other common symptoms of SLE are:

  • Unremitting fever
  • Constant body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to sunlight

The complications of lupus can involve virtually any part the body. For example, if the lungs become inflamed, this presents a condition known as pleurisy, which can lead to difficulty and pain with breathing. If the kidneys suffer from prolonged inflammation, this may lead to their failure, a life-threatening condition. Sometimes more than one organ or bodily part is afflicted.

Even the onset of symptoms can vary widely between individuals. Some may experience severe symptoms in a short period of time, while others may develop mild symptoms over a long period of time. Some symptoms disappear quickly, while others remain permanent. The most commonly afflicted group are women of African American, Asian, or Hispanic heritage, between the ages of 15 and 40 years old.

In keeping with the mystery of this disease, the exact cause is not known. It is believed that a person's genetics, plus exposure to certain environmental factors, may play a role. Potential triggers from the environment may include sunlight, infections and some pharmaceutical drugs.

If you suspect lupus or have already received a diagnosis, you may want to book an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Diagnosis from your practitioner will rely on several things, including your symptoms, plus a pulse and tongue diagnosis. According to the theory of Oriental medicine, internal body conditions and imbalances are reflected through the tongue and pulse. The tongue is visually inspected, and the pulse is taken manually. A practitioner will take your pulse on both the left and right side.

In a case where symptoms of lupus are present, an acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner may see signs of toxic heat accumulation as evidenced by a dark red tongue, and it may be accompanied by mouth ulcers. Ordinarily, a healthy tongue is light red or pink in color. The pulse may be rapid, reflecting the presence of excess heat in the body. A rapid pulse is one that beats faster than 90 times per minute.

Not every patient with a diagnosis of lupus will present with symptoms of toxic heat accumulation. It will all depend on the unique set of symptoms for that patient. Therefore, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine will need to evaluate each case individually for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!

About the Author:   Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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