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Coping With Lupus Medication Side Effects

As many people with lupus know, the list of possible side effects from lupus medications can be alarming. However, Bermas says that fears about side effects can get blown out of proportion. Although lupus drugs can have serious side effects, many are quite rare and most can be well managed,she says.

"People need to realize that when they're taking these medications, we know what side effects to look for," says Fitzgerald. "If they occur, we change the medication and it usually goes away."

Talk to your rheumatologist about your concerns. He or she will help you weigh the potential risks and benefits of your lupus medication accurately.

Other Lupus Treatments

Other than medicine, additional lupus treatments include:

  • Surgery and transplants. In severe cases, lupus can cause damage to the organs -- especially the kidneys. Some people develop kidney failure and need a transplant.
  • Experimental treatments. Scientists are studying other ways to treat lupus, such as stem cell transplants. Transplants would be limited to severe cases of lupus that haven't responded to other treatments. Ask your doctor if you're a candidate for an experimental treatment. 
  • Complementary medicine. There's evidence that some supplements, such as DHEA or fish oil, might help people with lupus. But be sure to talk to your rheumatologist before taking any supplements. Supplements could interact with medicines or worsen lupus symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes for Lupus

Don't underestimate what you can do on your own for your lupus symptoms. Studies show that the condition can be improved by changes to your lifestyle.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Although no specific meal plan has been shown to help with lupus symptoms, aim for a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in unhealthy fats. Ask your doctor to suggest additional dietary changes based on your personal health. For instance, if you have bone loss, your doctor may recommend increasing calcium and vitamin D. If you have kidney problems, your doctor might suggest eating a low-salt diet.
  • Exercise. Exercise is key if you have lupus. It can help improve your mood, boost energy, lower your risk of heart disease, and sharpen your thinking.
  • Reduce stress. In many people, stress can trigger flares. Use techniques like meditation, biofeedback, yoga, and breathing exercises to cut down on stress. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help as well.
  • Rest. People with lupus might need more rest than the average person. If you can, build time for rest into the day and allow for 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.

Working With Your Doctor

Because lupus can cause so many different symptoms, it can be tough to manage. You'll need the help of a few doctors at least -- a GP, a rheumatologist, and other experts depending on your lupus symptoms.

Even with good treatment, your symptoms are likely to fluctuate over time. Lupus is always unpredictable. That's why careful monitoring and regular check-ups are so important. As long as you get help quickly, many serious complications can be delayed or prevented.

"I think people who have just been diagnosed with lupus should be optimistic about treatment," Bermas tells WebMD. It's true that there are no miracle cures. Finding the right approach might take trial and error. But with patience -- and the help of your health care team -- the odds are good that you'll find a lupus treatment plan that works.

Community TV:

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