What is medication treatment for lupus?

Medication treatments for lupus involve taking different medicines to manage the condition. Different medication treatments work different for various types of lupus. The goal of treatment is to prevent flare-ups, control symptoms and reduce organ damage. 

Common medications used to treat lupus

These medications are common treatments for lupus:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Antimalarials
  • Benlysta
  • Daily oral prednisone for SLE
  • Immunosuppressives (drugs that reduce your immune system's response)
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen

Maintaining a healthy diet and creating a lifestyle with rest, stress relief and sunscreen use are also important for managing lupus.

What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic disease that affects more women than men. It's an autoimmune disease that can last for years. An autoimmune disease means that something is wrong with your immune system. Your immune system uses antibodies to fight off viruses, bacteria and germs from your body. If you have an autoimmune disease like lupus, your body can't tell the difference between these invaders or your healthy tissue. That means your antibodies attack your healthy tissue. Lupus can do this to your organs, skin or joints. 

Types of lupus

It's not clear why lupus develops. Research suggests that genes, hormones or environmental factors may trigger the condition. Scientists know about four types of lupus:

  • Discoid only affects the skin with rashes
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus and also the most serious type
  • Drug-induced lupus (DIL) is triggered by taking certain medications and disappears if you stop taking the medication
  • Neonatal lupus is a rare form of the disease found in newborns of mothers with lupus; it causes skin rashes, anemia (not enough healthy red blood cells), liver issues or serious heart defects

Symptoms of lupus

The symptoms of lupus are different in everyone. Some symptoms are mild. Some symptoms flare up and disappear. New symptoms may occur over time. Common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain while breathing deeply
  • Cold and pale toes or fingers
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Muscle pain
  • Red facial rashes 
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Swelling around eyes
  • Swelling in legs
  • Unexplained fever
  • Unexplained loss of hair

Lupus can affect one or more of your body's systems at a time, like your skin or joints. 

Diagnosing lupus

Lupus could lead to kidney failure or heart disease. That's why it's important to diagnose it early. It's not an easy disease to diagnose because symptoms come and go. Your doctor uses specific criteria to diagnose the disease. If you have four or more of the following criteria, you may have lupus:

  • Anemia
  • Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) test
  • Arthritis pain in joints
  • Butterfly-shaped facial, neck, ear, scalp or chest rash
  • Chest or side pain when moving/breathing
  • Immune disorder (such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Kidney issues
  • Mouth, tongue or inner-nose sores
  • Neurological issues
  • Scaly, disk-shaped rash
  • Sun sensitivity

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