Lupus Treatments and Medications

Continuing on with my all about lupus series!!  If you haven’t yet, read my first two installments, What IS Lupus and What is Lupus? Part Deux.  My post today is about how physicians are now treating lupus!

After a person’s diagnosis of lupus, and depending on your symptoms, your doctor (or doctors) will decide what the best treatment will be for you.

Medications for lupus include:

  • Antimalarials – Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) – These are normally used to treat malaria. It is in a class of meds called DMARDS: disease-modifying antirheumetic drugs. It may help with skin issues and to prevent swelling and pain. Though they are not exactly sure how this drug works! Crazy, huh? Side effects may include all the normal ones (nausea, stomach cramps, loss of appetite etc), but it also can cause eye problems, especially if you are on it for a long time. You will need regular eye exams (every 3-6 months at first) to detect any changes in your vision and eyes. It is the first medication I was put on for lupus and I really did not notice too many side effects, though I was pretty nauseous taking it at first. I just learned to make sure I take it with food.
  • Immunosuppressants – Imuran (azathioprine), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Cellcept (mycophenolate), Arava (leflunomide), Trexall (methotrexate) and the newest medication used for lupus, Benlysta (belimumab) – These are reserved for the more serious cases of lupus and also have the most serious side effects (increased risk of infection, cancer and anemia). These drugs are used to calm down the immune response of the body.
  • Corticosteroids – Prednisone and other steroids are used to battle the inflammation caused by the disease. Steroids have very un-fun side effects such as weight gain, easy bruising, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and an increased risk of infection.

There are complementary and alternative treatments for lupus, but please ALWAYS discuss these with your doctor before trying them. They may counteract a medication or just not be the right treatment for your disease. IANAD and am only sharing these to provide information.

  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – is a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands and testes in men, and by the ovaries in women. DHEA is thought to be helpful in the treatment of lupus by providing immune support and balancing hormone levels.
  • Flaxseed – Contains a fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which may decrease inflammation in the body, and may help improve kidney function in people with lupus nephritis (kidney involvement in lupus).
  • Fish oil – Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids that may be beneficial for people with lupus.
  • Vitamin D – There is some evidence that people with lupus may benefit from supplemental Vitamin D.

There is always treatment YOU can provide for yourself!

  • Rest – Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Your body needs the rest to repair and give you energy. Naps count too! Don’t over-do it during the day. Take breaks. Listen to your body.
  • Sunlight – Become a vampire! Well, don’t really, but make sure to limit your sun exposure. Wear sunscreen daily, and get some protective clothing.
  • Don’t smoke – Duh.
  • Get moving – Regular exercise can help you recover from a flare, help if you’re feeling down and just make you feel better. It is also great to strengthen your cardiovascular system.
  • Eat what’s good for you – Eat real, healthy food and try to limit fast food, sweets and salt. This will also help you if you are taking steroids as it will help decrease swelling, water weight, and weight gain. What you put into your body is VERY important to your well-being.

Work with your doctor. Your doctor is there to help you! You must be your own advocate, but it never hurts to take a family member or loved one with you to appointments to help take notes, ask questions and find out what is the best course of treatment for you. Communicate with your doc if you have any new symptoms, possible side effects from meds and ANY questions you have.

I hope you have a healthy, bright day!

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