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Lupus and Getting A Yearly Skin Check

Ever since my lupus diagnosis in 2017, my relationship with the sun has drastically changed. Growing up, I never was into skincare or thought about the lifelong effects of the sun and what it does to our skin. I never even had a daily skincare routine or night routine like other girls I knew. I think it wasn’t until college that I got into makeup and that’s when I started to invest in my skin.

But, even then I wasn’t doing such a great job. I wore sunscreen sporadically, I loved to be out in the sun soaking in some vitamin D without any UV protection. I would sunburn and pay the price but I still repeated that mistake again and again.

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Photosensitivity and flares

After my diagnosis, my doctors informed me that many patients experienced photosensitivity which could trigger a flare: which includes joint pain, fatigue and rashes. He also told me that the rash on my face was known as a butterfly rash, and was very common with lupus patients. Being immunocompromised also meant that I had a higher chance of developing skin cancer. So, prevention was key.

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I started to wear sunscreen religiously with at least 30 SPF everyday no matter what the season was. When I was younger I thought sunscreen was just for the summer, but I was wrong. I never left my house without an umbrella. Rain or sun this was always in my bag. I also wore a baseball hat. And I was very mindful of peak hours when the sun was at its highest.

Even with all that protection, I didn’t want to be out if I didn’t need to and when I did I still wanted to find the shadiest spot available. Summer time at the beach or pool was really tricky. I needed those big umbrellas and would have to wear UV protected clothing and layered on with beach cover ups. I would also have to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.

Adding a dermatologist to my team

Along with everything else, I added a dermatologist to my care team. Having lupus increased my risk for skin cancer, so I wanted to be proactive. Skin is the largest organ so I wanted to get ahead of the game. I was shocked at the wait time to get my first appointment with a dermatologist - even with a referral. I had to wait 5 months, but the wait was worth it.

Since this was my first visit, I didn’t know what to expect. So when I was called in, I was shocked to hear please remove all clothing except your underwear and put on this gown. I stripped down and silently waited for the dermatologist to come in. The wait felt like forever.

When she came in, since it was my first visit we had to go through my history. I explained to her I had lupus and I just wanted to be proactive. She applauded me for getting one step ahead and being preventative. She mentioned that most patients only come in once they see an issue and sometimes it's too late.

Skin check

Once we were done reviewing my history she proceeded to do my skin check.  My dermatologist was so thorough and checked every part of my skin. I was really shocked and didn’t realize they checked everything. From my toes to my scalp. She checked every crevice and mole that was on my body.

Thankfully all was good and I had the peace of mind that skin cancer was not at bay. Now I see my dermatologist every year just like I would see my OB-GYN or PCP.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
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