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Understanding Lupus -- Treatment

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People are living longer and better with lupus than ever before. Although there's no cure for lupus, there are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your symptoms.

Treatment for lupus -- also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) -- depends on your symptoms and how severe they are. Treatment can help:

  • Ease your symptoms
  • Bring down inflammation
  • Prevent and relieve flares
  • Prevent organ damage and other health problems

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

If you have lupus, you may have joint pain and swelling, especially in your fingers, wrists, or knees. Sometimes you may have a fever. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can usually help you ease both of those problems.

You can buy them without a prescription. Sometimes they can irritate your stomach, so take them with food or milk.

Antimalarial Drugs

Medications used to treat malaria can also treat lupus. They are used to treat skin rashes, mouth sores, and joint pain. They may also reduce your risk of blood clots, which is a concern in some people with lupus.

Antimalarial drugs protect against skin damage from ultraviolet rays in sunlight and may protect your body against organ damage linked to lupus. Side effects like stomach upset tend to be rare and mild.

Corticosteroids

Lupus makes parts of your immune system overactive, so it attacks healthy tissue by mistake. Corticosteroids weaken this immune response. Your doctor may prescribe them if lupus causes problems in your heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, or blood vessels.

Taken as a pill or IV, corticosteroids work fast to ease the swelling, warmth, and soreness in joints caused by inflammation. They can also prevent long-term organ damage.

Corticosteroids can have serious side effects like:

  • Greater chance of infections
  • Fragile bones or bone damage, especially in the hip
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diabetes
  • Cataracts

You may also have weight gain, bloating, and mood changes from taking corticosteroids. So your doctor will likely give you the lowest dose possible and taper them off if your symptoms go away for a time.

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