Medications are an important aspect of the management of many patients with SLE. An array of drug therapies is now available, which has increased the potential for effective treatment and excellent patient outcomes. Once a person has been diagnosed with lupus, a treatment plan will be developed by the doctor based on the person's age, health, symptoms, and lifestyle. It should be reevaluated regularly and revised as necessary to ensure it is as effective as possible. The goals for treating a patient with lupus include:
- reducing tissue inflammation caused by the disease
- suppressing immune system abnormalities that are responsible for tissue inflammation
- preventing flares and treating them when they do occur
- minimizing complication
Patients and Providers Working Together
Lupus patients should work with their doctors to develop their medication treatment plan. Patients should thoroughly understand the reason for taking a drug, its action, dose, administration times, and common side effects. Pharmacists also can be a good resource for patients in helping them understand their medication treatment plan. If a patient experiences a problem believed to be related to a medication, the patient should notify her or his doctor immediately. It can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking some medications, and patients should not stop or change treatments without first talking to their doctor.
The array of drugs and the complexity of treatment plans can be overwhelming and confusing. Newly diagnosed patients and patients whose treatment plans have changed should be closely followed and have immediate access to a nurse or doctor if they are having problems with the prescribed medications. Most SLE patients do well on lupus medications and experience few side effects. Those who do experience negative side effects should not become discouraged, because alternative drugs are often available.
Health professionals should review drug treatment plans with the lupus patient at each office visit to determine her or his understanding of and compliance with the plan. Questions should be encouraged and additional teaching done to reinforce or provide additional information as needed. It is important to note that lupus patients often require drugs for the treatment of conditions commonly seen with the disease. Examples of these types of medications include diuretics, antihypertensives, anticonvulsants, and antibiotics.
This article describes some of the main drugs used to treat SLE. The information presented is intended as a brief review and reference. Drug references and other medical and nursing texts provide more complete and detailed information regarding the use of each drug and associated nursing care responsibilities.