Treatments for Lupus

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This information is from the Lupus Cleveland Website. It shows the types of things used to treat Lupus and all the different manifestations of the disease. It is well written and easy to read. If you would like to understand Lupus better, this is a good article to read. Enjoy!

TREATMENT

Currently, there is no cure for lupus; however, early diagnosis and proper medical treatment can significantly help to control the disease. Symptoms often vary from one individual to another and treatment is based on specific indications in each person. Still, a few general guidelines can be listed:

  1. Regular rest is important when the disease is active. When the disease is in remission, increased physical activity is encouraged to increase joint flexibility and muscle strength.
  2. For the individual who is photosensitive, the regular use of sunscreens will help prevent rashes and irritations. For those who develop rashes, treatment with cortisone creams is very helpful.
  3. Achy joints (arthralgia) and arthritis generally respond to aspirin or aspirin-like drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
  4. The anti-malarial drug hydroxcholorquin (Plaquenil) is often prescribed for more severe joint or skin involvement.
  5. Cortisone drugs (the most commonly prescribed is Prednisone) are often used for more severe organ involvement. Not everyone with SLE needs cortisone. Cortisone, particularly in higher doses, has possible hazardous side effects.
  6. If you have a fever (over 100 degrees F), call your doctor.
  7. Go to your doctor for regular checkups. Regular checkups usually include blood and urine tests.
  8. When in doubt, ask. Call a doctor.

Treatment plans should meet the individual patient’s needs and may change over time. To develop a treatment plan, the doctor tries to:

  • Prevent flares
  • Treat flares when they do occur
  • Minimize complications

The doctor and patient should reevaluate the plan regularly to ensure that it is as effective as possible.

Several types of drugs are used to treat lupus. For people with joint pain, fever, and swelling, drugs that decrease inflammation, referred to as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are often used.

While some NSAIDs are available over the counter, a doctor’s prescription is necessary for others.

Common side effects of NSAIDs include stomach upset, heartburn, diarrhea, and fluid retention.

Some lupus patients also develop liver and kidney inflammation while taking NSAIDs. It is especially important to stay in close contact with the doctor while taking NSAIDs.
Antimalarials are another type of drug commonly used to treat lupus. These drugs were originally used to treat malaria, but they are also useful in treating lupus.
Antimalarials may be used alone or in combination with other drugs to treat fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and inflammation of the lungs. Continuous treatment with anti-malarials may prevent flares from recurring.

Side effects of antimalarials may include stomach upset and, very rarely, damage to the retina of the eye.

The most common treatment for lupus is corticoid steroid hormones. Corticoid steroids are related to cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory hormone. They hold back inflammation very quickly.

Corticoid steroids can be given orally, in creams applied to the skin, or by injection. Since they are potent drugs, the doctor will use the lowest dose with the greatest benefit.

Short-term side effects of corticoid steroids include swelling, increased appetite, weight gain, and emotional ups and downs. These side effects usually stop when the drug is stopped.

It can be dangerous to stop taking corticoid steroids suddenly, so it is very important that a doctor recommend changes for the corticoid steroid dose.
Sometimes doctors give very large amounts of corticoid steroid for a short time by vein. With this treatment, typical side effects are less likely and slow withdrawal is not necessary.

Long-term side effects of corticoid steroids can include stretch marks, excessive hair growth, weakened or damaged bones, high blood pressure, damage to the arteries, high blood sugar, infections, and cataracts.

Typically, the higher the dose of corticoid steroids, the more severe the side effects are. The longer corticoid steroids are taken, the greater the risk of side effects becomes.
People with lupus who use corticoid steroids should talk to their doctors about taking supplemental calcium and Vitamin D. These supplements reduce the risk of fragile bones called osteoporosis.
For patients whose kidneys or central nervous systems are affected by lupus, a type of drug called an immunosuppressive may be used. Immunosuppressive hold the immune system back by blocking the production of some immune cells.

Immunosuppressive may be given orally or by IV.

Side effects of immunosuppressive may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bladder problems, decreased fertility, and increased risk of cancer and infection. The longer the treatment with immunosuppressive, the higher the risk of side effects becomes.

Since some treatments may cause harmful side effects, it is important to tell the doctor about any side effects right away. It is also important NOT to stop or change treatment without asking the doctor first.

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