Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Lupus Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Understanding Lupus -- Treatment

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.

Immunosuppressive Drugs

Like corticosteroids, these drugs curb your immune system, bring symptoms under control, and prevent long-term organ damage. They can also have severe side effects. For example, they can make it hard for your body to fight infections and raise your chances for some kinds of cancer.

Your doctor may prescribe them if corticosteroids have not helped your symptoms.

Immunosuppressive drugs are sometimes used together with corticosteroids. That way you'll be taking a lower amount of each type of drug, reducing the possible side effects of each drug.

With both types of drugs, you and your doctor need to weigh the risks of side effects against how well they improve your lupus symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Lupus Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
sunburst filtering through leaves
Article
 
lupus medication
Article
Trainer demonstrating exercise for RA
Slideshow
 
Woman rubbing shoulder
Slideshow
Bag of cosmetics
Video
 
young woman hiding face
Quiz
pregnant woman
Article
 
5 Lupus Risk Factors
Article
Young adult couple
Article
 
doctor advising patient
Article
sticky notes on face
Video
 

WebMD Special Sections