While there are multiple treatments available for lupus, there are no known cures at this time. Learning to manage flares is the key to treatment. Each patient will require a unique treatment plan, according to the different flares present as well as severity. Medications are available to aid in the treatment of lupus with the goal of reducing the damage to major organs and calming the immune system. While these prescriptions help manage flares, it is common during a treatment plan to change medications often as new symptoms arise and older symptoms subside. Consulting your doctor often is essential in treating the symptoms of lupus.
Most symptoms of lupus are treated with prescription medications. Of these, the following are the most commonly used.
Nonsteroidal Anit-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) is the leading prescribed medication for Lupus. It helps soothe pain and swelling of the joints and in the muscles and tissues around the heart and lungs. NSAIDs are used to treat mild discomfort and can be very affective if no major organ damage is present. Some of the more severe side effects reported are increased risk of heart disease and bleeding of the stomach.
Corticosteroids are often used to treat lupus by elevating certain hormones already present in the body to assist the immune system. This medication usually has a very high success rate and the body reacts to it quickly. Once the symptoms subside, the dose is then lowered until the patient no longer requires it. This process can be repeated if symptoms return. The dose is often taken every other day in to reduce the side effects. Diabetes and Osteoporosis are the major risk factors associated with long-tern use of Corticosteroids, along with mild side effects listed below.
Antimalarial Medication can be used to treat severe pain in the joints, skin rashes and sores in the mouth. Like Corticosteroids, Antimalaral Medication is used only when symptoms are present. Once the symptoms subside, the dose is lowered until the medication is no longer needed. Side effect are minimal, such as dizziness, weakness or drowsiness. The process can be repeated if symptoms return.
Immunosuppressive Agents are used to suppress the immune system, in severe cases, to limit major organ damage. The side effects can be very severe, thus Immunosuppresive Agents are used in only the most severe cases of lupus. Cytoxan and Imuran are the two most commonly used. CellCept is an Immunosuppressive Agent used to treat kidney disease in patients of lupus. With a lower immune system, the risk of viral infection is elevated.
Each of the medications used to treat lupus has side effects. Some mild side effects include:
•Upset stomach and indigestion
• Retention of fluid
• Mild to severe headaches
• Loss of vision
• Itchy skin
• Weak Muscles
Some of the more severe side effects include:
• High blood pressure
• Elevation of blood sugars
• Risk of Infection
• Elevated risk of cancer
• Liver Damage
• Bleeding of Stomach
• Risk of Heart Disease
• Osteoporosis (bone thinning)
As with all other forms of treatment of lupus, it is essential to consult your doctor regularly and to keep up to date on the latest clinical trials and new treatments available.