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Medications

Medicines can't cure lupus, but they can control many symptoms and often can prevent or slow organ damage.

Medicine treatment for lupus often involves reaching a balance between preventing organ damage, having an acceptable quality of life, and minimizing side effects. You will need to see your doctor often to see how you're doing and check for medicine side effects.

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About 1.5 million Americans have lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE), the most common form), according to the Lupus Foundation of America. The majority, 90%, are women, who usually develop the disease between ages 15 and 44. African-American, Hispanic, and Asian women have a higher risk. Eliza Chakravarty, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the division of immunology and rheumatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, sheds light on a disease you might not know much about.

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Your doctor may have to change the dose and combinations of medicines until you reach the best possible balance.

Medicine choices

If you have mild disease or symptoms that affect your quality of life but you don't have organ-threatening problems, your doctor may prescribe:

If you have more severe disease, your doctor may prescribe:

If you have had blood clots in a vein or artery (venous or arterial thrombosis), or have antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, which increases your risk for blood clots, your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner (anticoagulant). This is especially important if you already have blood clots. Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is sometimes used to slow blood clotting in antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

What to think about

Some lupus medicines, like acetaminophen and prednisone, are considered safe during pregnancy. Others may not be. You may not be able to stop taking lupus medicines after becoming pregnant. Or you may need to start taking medicines for a symptom flare. If possible, talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant so you can learn about the effect lupus may have on your pregnancy.

Because corticosteroids are powerful medicines and can cause serious side effects, your doctor will recommend the lowest dose that will give the most benefit.

Some people with lupus are sensitive to antibiotic medicines called sulfonamides (sulfa medicines). These include Bactrim, Septra, and many others. Your doctor can prescribe medicines that don't contain sulfa, if needed.

People with lupus can go into spontaneous remission. If this happens to you, your doctor may cut back your medicine over time or stop your medicine.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 10, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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