Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Treatment for lupus depends on your signs and symptoms. Determining whether your signs and symptoms should be treated and what medications to use requires a careful discussion of the benefits and risks with your doctor. As your signs and symptoms flare and subside, you and your doctor may find that you'll need to change medications or dosages. The medications most commonly used to control lupus include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), may be used to treat pain, swelling and fever associated with lupus. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription. Side effects of NSAIDs include stomach bleeding, kidney problems and an increased risk of heart problems.
- Antimalarial drugs. Medications commonly used to treat malaria, such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), also can help control lupus. Side effects can include stomach upset and, very rarely, damage to the retina of the eye.
- Corticosteroids. Prednisone and other types of corticosteroids can counter the inflammation of lupus, but often produce long-term side effects — including weight gain, easy bruising, thinning bones (osteoporosis), high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection. The risk of side effects increases with higher doses and longer term therapy.
- Immune suppressants. Drugs that suppress the immune system may be helpful in serious cases of lupus. Examples include cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), azathioprine (Imuran, Azasan), mycophenolate (Cellcept), leflunomide (Arava) and methotrexate (Trexall). Potential side effects may include an increased risk of infection, liver damage, decreased fertility and an increased risk of cancer. A newer medication, belimumab (Benlysta) also reduces lupus symptoms in some people. Side effects include nausea, diarrhea and fever.
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