There is no known cure for lupus, but there are effective treatments. Most of the symptoms of lupus are from inflammation (swelling), so treatment focuses on reducing the swelling.
Treatment may include taking these medicines:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are often used to reduce joint and muscle pain and inflammation in people who have mild SLE (pain isn't bad or organs aren't affected). There are many different types of NSAIDs, both prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs. They include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and other medicines. Common side effects of NSAIDs can include stomach upset, heartburn, drowsiness, headache, and fluid retention. If you have any side effects, talk to your HCP. NSAIDs can also cause problems in your blood, liver, and kidneys. Stay in touch with your HCP to ensure these problems aren't happening to you.
Antimalarial drugs. Medicines used to prevent or treat malaria are used to treat joint pain, skin rashes, and ulcers. Two common antimalarials are hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and chloroquine (Aralen). Side effects of antimalarials can include stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, trouble sleeping, and itching.
Corticosteroid hormones. These are powerful drugs that reduce inflammation in various tissues of the body. They can be taken by mouth, in creams applied to the skin, or by injection. Prednisone is a corticosteroid that is often used to treat lupus. Corticosteriods can have various side effects, so HCPs try to use the lowest dose possible. Short-term side effects include swelling, increased appetite, weight gain, and emotional ups and downs. These side effects generally stop when the drug is stopped. Long-term side effects of corticosteroids can include stretch marks on the skin, excessive hair growth, weakened or damaged bones, high blood pressure, damage to the arteries, high blood sugar, infections, and cataracts. People with lupus who are using corticosteroids should talk to their HCPs about taking calcium supplements, vitamin D, or other drugs to reduce the risk of osteoporosis (weakened, fragile bones).
Immunosuppressive agents/chemotherapy. These agents are used in serious cases of lupus, when major organs are losing their ability to function. These drugs suppress the immune system to limit the damage to the organ. Examples are azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan). These drugs can cause serious side effects including nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bladder problems, decreased fertility, and increased risk of cancer and infection.
Work closely with your HCP to ensure that your treatment plan is as successful as possible. Because some treatments may cause harmful side effects, promptly report any new symptoms to your HCP. It is also important not to stop or change treatments without talking to your HCP first.
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Last Updated: Jun 5, 2019
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