The following drugs are commonly used to treat the inflammation and symptoms of lupus. Since lupus manifests in different ways in different people, treatment regimens differ from patient to patient. In addition, one patient may experience several different treatment regimens during her/his lifetime. It is important that you understand the medications you are taking and the risks, benefits, and restrictions associated with them. Please remember to take your medications exactly as directed by your physician and to address any questions or concerns upon your next visit.
- NSAIDs These anti-inflammatory medications relieve some lupus symptoms by reducing the inflammation responsible for the stiffness and discomfort in your muscle, joints, and other tissues. NSAIDs are milder than many other lupus drugs and may be taken either alone to treat a mild flare or in combination with other medications.
- Anti-Malarial Drugs Plaquenil and other anti-malarials are the key to controlling lupus long term, and some lupus patients may be on Plaquenil for the rest of their lives. For this reason, you can think of anti-malarials as a sort of “lupus life insurance.”
- Steroids Synthetic cortisone medications are some of the most effective treatments for reducing the swelling, warmth, pain, and tenderness associated with the inflammation of lupus. Cortisone usually works quickly to relieve these symptoms. However, cortisone can also cause many unwelcome side effects, so it is usually prescribed only when other medications—specifically NSAIDs and anti-malarials—are not sufficient enough to control lupus.
- Immunosuppressive Medications Immunosuppressives are medications that help suppress the immune system. Many were originally used in patients who received organ transplants to help prevent their bodies from rejecting the transplanted organ. However, these drugs are now also used for the treatment of certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- DHEA DHEA is a mild male hormone that is effective in treating some of the symptoms of mild to moderate lupus, including hair loss (alopecia), joint pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction (e.g., difficulty thinking, memory loss, distractibility, difficulty in multitasking). DHEA can also be effective against osteoporosis.