Common Medications for Other Conditions

The following medications are often used by doctors to treat other conditions that commonly occur in people with lupus. Although these drugs do not specifically address the underlying cause of lupus, they are used to treat other conditions that may be compounded or indirectly caused by lupus. Since lupus affects different people in different ways, treatment courses are highly individualized. Please remember to take your medications exactly as directed by your physician and notify him/her of any concerns upon your next visit. Never take any medications until they are approved by your doctor – in other words, do not self-medicate!

  • Aspirin Low doses of aspirin are often recommended for lupus patients who have antiphospholipid antibodies and may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Antidepressents Anti-depressant medications are used to treat depression and anxiety, present in almost half of all people who have lupus. It is important that you speak with your doctor if you feel you are experiencing clinical depression, because many people who are physically ill respond well to anti-depressant medications. In addition, your doctor may treat your depression in different ways depending on the cause.
  • Antiplatelet Medications (Platelet Antagonists) Some lupus patients are at an increased risk for blood clots due to the prevalence of a condition known as antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS). Platelet antagonists help prevent these clots and in doing so, also help to prevent heart attack, stroke, and other complications.
  • Osteoporosis Medications (Bisphosphonates) Bisphosponates are medications used to treat and prevent osteoporosis. People with lupus are at an increased risk for this condition due to the inflammation they experience with the disease. Certain medications taken by lupus patients also increase the risk of osteoporosis, especially corticosteroids such as prednisone.
  • Blood Pressure Medications (Anti-hypertensives) 25-30% of people with lupus experience hypertension (high blood pressure). The most common causes of high blood pressure in people with lupus are kidney disease and long-term steroid use. Other medications, such as cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf) can also cause elevations in blood pressure. It is important to remember that while diet and exercise are extremely important for optimal cardiovascular health, these elements alone may be insufficient in controlling your blood pressure; in this case, your doctor will prescribe a medication.
  • Anticoagulants Anticoagulants (“blood thinners”) are medications that decrease the ability of the blood to clot and are used in lupus patients with antiphospholipid antibodies to reduce the risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT), stroke, and heart attack.
  • Gastrointestinal Medications Many people with lupus suffer from gastrointestinal problems, especially heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Peptic ulcers can also occur, often due to certain medications used in lupus treatment, including NSAIDs and steroids. Certain medications may be prescribed or recommended by your doctor to control these conditions.
  • Cholesterol Medications (Statins) Statins are medications that lower the level of cholesterol in your blood by reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver. People with high levels of cholesterol in their blood face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which can lead to chest pain, heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Studies have shown that people with lupus are more likely to have clogged arteries that can lead to heart attack and stroke at a younger age. This increased risk is caused by elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, and inflammation, conditions that occur often in people with lupus. Certain medications, such as corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone) can provoke or compound these symptoms. For this reason, the cholesterol-lowering properties of statins are commonly called upon for lupus patients.
  • Thyroid Medications Autoimmune thyroid disease is common in lupus. It is believed that about 6% of people with lupus have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and about 2% have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). A thyroid gland that is functioning improperly can affect the function of organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and skin. Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, fatigue, depression, moodiness, and dry hair and skin. Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss, heart palpitations, tremors, heat intolerance, and eventually lead to osteoporosis. Treatment for both underactive and overactive thyroid involves getting your body’s metabolism back to normal.
  • Fibromyalgia Medications Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain and tenderness, general fatigue, and non-restful sleep. Many people with lupus have fibromyalgia; in fact, much of the pain that people with lupus feel is due to this condition. Three medications are used to reduce some of the physical and emotional symptoms of fibromyalgia.
  • Restasis (Dry Eye Medication) Restasis is an immunosuppressive medication used to treat eye symptoms related to Sjogren’s syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the glands that produce tears and saliva do not function correctly.