Is There Really Any Cure* For Lupus Disease?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 
Q: I’m 40 year old suffering from lupus disease. I’m really worried about the treatment I have to go for. I want to know is there any cure* to lupus. What should I do as a preventive step to stop* further worsening my condition? Please do tell me about the medication being used today to treat* Lupus, as I don’t want something wired happens with me.
Expert Answer

Lupus has no cure* but there are available medications that can be used to manage the condition. The drugs used to treat* lupus also help in minimizing the effects the condition has on your daily life. Not only drugs are used to manage the symptoms of lupus, lifestyle changes can also help manage the condition. Some of the drugs and lifestyle changes include:

i. Protecting you from the Sunlight

When you are exposed to sunlight the skin rashes can become worse. Skin rashes is one of the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Red Rashes

You can protect* yourself from the sun by wearing clothes that cover your skin. Wearing sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat is also helpful.

Sunscreen can also be used so as to prevent sunburn. Sunscreens which have a light factor can be good for preventing sunburn. People who have lupus but are not sun-sensitive do not need to take precaution.

If the SLE symptoms are mild you may not need treatment but it should be noted that most people will require medication to manage the symptoms. Some of the medicines that can be used to treat* lupus include:

i. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs help in reducing* pain and inflammation in the body. NSAIDs are commonly prescribed by the doctors when you experience muscle pain.
Some of the commonly prescribed NSAIDs include:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Piroxican
  • Diclofenac

Ibuprofen can be bought over the counter. The NSAIDs mentioned above are suitable when you have mild muscle pain. When you have severe pain, stronger* medication will be helpful and this can be prescribed by the doctor.

You should be cautious when about to start using NSAIDs because they are not suitable for people who have or had kidney, stomach and liver problems in the past.

People who have asthma are advised not to use NSAIDs. Aspirin is not suitable for children who are under the age of 16. You can discuss with your healthcare provider so that you can know which NSAIDs are good for you.

NSAIDs have side effects if they are taken for a long period of time. Damage of the stomach lining is one of the side effects. When the stomach lining is damaged internal bleeding can occur.

Taking NSAIDs for a long period of time will need monitoring of your condition so as to ensure there is no internal bleeding. If internal bleeding occurs you can opt for other available options.

ii. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are used to reduce* inflammation. Corticosteroids can be very effective especially when you have systemic lupus erythematosus.

When you have severe symptoms the doctors usually prescribe high dosage of corticosteroids so as to bring the symptoms under control*. When the symptoms reduce* the dosage is also reduced*.

Long term use and high dosage of corticosteroids has side effects. Some of the side effects include:

  • Gaining of weight
  • Thinning of the skin
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Thinning of the bones

If taken correctly and under the supervision of your healthcare provider, corticosteroids are safe and effective in treating lupus. The dosage will need to be tailored to your condition so as to reduce* chances of side effects at the same time managing your condition effectively.

iii. Rituximab

Rituximab is usually used to treat* patients of lupus who don’t respond to other forms of treatment.
Rituximab was initially used to treat* several types of blood cancer but it was later proven* effective in treating several autoimmune conditions.

The common side effects of rituximab include:

  • Vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms such as high temperature and chills when taking the medicine
  • Dizziness

In rare cases infusion occurs especially shortly after the administration of the treatment. It is advisable to be monitored closely when treatment commences.

Even though rituximab can be effective in some cases there are uncertainties about the safety of the drugs in treating lupus.

iv. Hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine was initially used to treat* malaria but it was later found to be effective in treating SLE symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, skin rashes and fatigue.

The benefits of Hydroxychloroquine start to be noticed 6-12 weeks after starting to use it.

Taking Hydroxychloroquine for a long period of time helps in controlling symptoms, preventing complications and flare ups. Hydrochloroquine has side effects but they are very rare. These side effects include:

  • Skin rashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Headache

One of the serious side effects of hydrochloroquine is damage to the vision but this rarely occurs. In cases of this occurrence you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. Your healthcare provider can decide whether you should be on regular eye checkup or not. This helps in reducing* risk of developing eye complication.

v. Immunosuppressant

They help in suppressing the immune system. Immunosuppressant helps in limiting the damage of the immune system when the healthy parts of the body are attacked.

Lupus Disease

Commonly used immunosuppresants to treat* lupus include:

  • Mycophenolate mofetil
  • Azathioprine
  • Cyclophosphamide

Immunosuppresants and corticosteroids can be used together so as to ease* the symptoms effectively.

Immunosuppresants are only prescribed when you have severe SLE because of its many side effects which include:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Acne
  • Convulsion
  • Extra high growth
  • Bleeding and bruising easily
  • Swollen gums

Pregnant mothers should not use Cyclophosphamide or Mycophenolate because they can cause birth defects. They can use Azathioprine instead.

It is advisable to go for regular check-ups and blood test when taking immunosuppresants because this medication put you at risk of developing liver problems.
Consult your doctor incases you experience these symptoms:

  • Coughing and breathlessness
  • Blood in urine
  • Diarrhea
  • High body temperature

Since your immune system is suppressed you should avoid contact with anyone with history of infection. This is to avoid any new infections.
 

References

  • McNamee, D. (2014, January 20). “New hope for lupus screening and treatment.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271456
  • Petri M, Furie R, Merrill J, et al. Four-Year Experience of Belimumab, a BLyS-Specific Inhibitor, in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Patients. Presented at the 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, October 17-21, 2009; Philadelphia, PA.
  • Crow MK. Etiology and pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, et al, eds. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2012:chap XX.
  • Use of methotrexate in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and primary Sjögren’s syndrome. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2010 Sep-Oct;28(5 Suppl 61):S156-9. – See more at: http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/lupus-news/lupus-drug-development#sthash.tL1RPQ9k.dpuf

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Author

Expert Author : Beth Solomon (Consumer Health Digest)

Beth Solomon has been writing articles on health for more than two years with a concentration on pain management and men’s and women’s health and fitness. She has been a contributing editor to Consumer Health Digest since 2013.