Your treatment choices for lupus depend on how severe your symptoms are, whether your organs are affected, and how much your symptoms are affecting your daily life. Your treatment plans should be tailored to your individual needs and will change over time, as the disease flares or ebbs. There currently is no cure for lupus.
Treatment for mild lupus
The goal of treatment for mild
lupus is to prevent symptom flares—when fatigue, joint
pain, and rash get worse.
- Get regular checkups with your
doctor, instead of waiting until your disease flares. When flares
do occur, the goal is to treat them right away to limit any damage to body
- Avoid the sun. If you must be in the sun,
cover your arms and legs, wear a hat, and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen
UVA and UVB rays) with a high sun protection factor (such as
SPF 50) to protect your skin.
corticosteroid cream for rashes.
- Take acetaminophen or nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and get plenty of rest for
mild joint or muscle pain and fever.
antimalarial medicines, especially for skin rashes. They also help with fatigue and joint and muscle pain.
- Take low-dose
corticosteroids if NSAIDs aren't effective in
controlling your symptoms.
Treatment for more severe lupus
If your lupus is causing or threatening organ damage, is life-threatening, or is seriously impacting your quality of life, you may also need to take:
- Corticosteroids in higher doses, either in pills or through a vein in your arm (IV).
- Medicine that suppresses your immune system (immunosuppressants).
To learn more, see Medications.
If you develop serious kidney disease that cannot be controlled with medicine, you may need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Good self-care is essential to managing lupus. A healthy lifestyle may reduce how often you have flares and how severe they are. It can improve your quality of life. Good self-care also helps decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Self-care includes getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet. To learn more, see Home Treatment.
What to think about
Taking corticosteroids by mouth and
being physically inactive put people with lupus at great risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis). Getting an adequate supply of
vitamin D may slow the bone thinning process. Your
doctor may also prescribe bisphosphonates, a type of medicine
that is also used for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. To learn more, see the topic
Lupus treatment is complicated by several things.
The course and pattern of lupus symptoms vary widely.
Flares and remissions can occur at any time, making it hard to tell how you are responding to treatment or which treatments are most helpful.
Some treatment side effects can be as troubling as the symptoms of lupus.
It may not be possible to completely eliminate all of
your symptoms for long periods of time, especially without the side effects
from medicines. Work closely with your doctor to reach a balance
between reasonably controlling your symptoms, preventing damage to your organs,
and minimizing side effects of long-term drug treatment. For example, you may
take a dose of medicine that will control lupus enough to prevent organ
damage, but you may still have symptoms such as mild skin rash, muscle aches,
and joint pain.
Using higher doses of medicines for a long time increases the
risk of serious side effects. Your doctor will prescribe a dose
that controls only the most serious, life-threatening symptoms and balances the
risks of the medicines with the benefits of controlling your symptoms.