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Understanding Lupus -- Treatment

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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.

Anticoagulants and Monoclonal Antibodies

Your doctor may also prescribe two other types of drugs:

Anticoagulants. These thin your blood to prevent blood clots, a life-threatening lupus symptom.

Monoclonal antibodies. Benlysta (belimumab), the first drug created just to treat lupus, was approved by the FDA in 2011. Given by IV, it targets specific immune cells. It may help reduce your need for steroid treatment, but it has not been tested thoroughly for the most severe forms of lupus.

Lifestyle Changes

Having a healthy lifestyle will help you feel better and prevent flares. It can also help prevent problems linked to lupus, like kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Try these tips:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Quit smoking (or don't start) to protect your heart and blood vessels.
  • Get plenty of rest to ease fatigue, a common lupus symptom.
  • Exercise most days to help sleep, mood, and heart health.
  • Always use sunscreen when you go out.
  • Get pneumonia and fluvaccines to protect against infections.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 11, 2014
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