While there is no cure for lupus, there are treatments that can help prevent flares, treat symptoms, and reduce organ damage. At Georgia Council on Lupus Education and Awareness in Atlanta, Georgia, we believe early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to successful management of lupus.
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the symptoms. Like all medications, these treatments have potential side effects. It is very important that you communicate with a healthcare professional or your physician about the potential benefits and side effects of any treatment.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs like ibuprofen (i.e., Aleve, Motrin, Advil) decrease swelling, pain, and fever. Always check with your doctor before taking any medications that are over the counter (without a prescription) for your lupus.
Antimalarials such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) help relieve some lupus symptoms including fatigue, rashes, joint pain, or mouth sores. Research has shown that antimalarials can prevent abnormal blood clotting, modify the course of the disease, prevent progression, and slow down joint damage.
Corticosteroids like Prednisone suppress the immune system and are often used in patients with serious or life-threatening inflammation in major organs like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. Patients with cutaneous lupus may also be treated with corticosteroid injections, creams, or ointments.
Immune suppressants including azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), methotrexate (Trexall), mycophenolate (CellCept), and cyclosporine (Neoral) suppress the immune system and are often used on patients with serious or life-threatening inflammation in major organs such as the kidneys, lungs, and heart.
Biologics like Benlysta block a protein that prolongs the survival of autoantibody-producing B-cells, which are the antibodies that target the body’s own tissues. Unlike immune suppressants and corticosteroids, biologics target specific cells in the immune system.
Many people living with lupus are photosensitive or sensitive to the sun and fluorescent lights. It is recommended that all people living with lupus wear sunscreen. Sunscreens with SPF greater than 30 are vital in protecting patients from UVA and UVB rays that provoke skin rashes, lesions, and other lupus disease activity.
Patients should also avoid excess sun exposure by wearing wide-brim hats, avoiding sunlight during peak hours of UV exposure (10:00 AM – 2:00 PM), and wearing tightly woven clothing.
Diet, Rest, and Exercise
Persons living with lupus should include a daily diet made up of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean sources of protein. A medically supervised exercise program balanced with rest is also essential to the treatment plan.