There is no cure for lupus – just as doctors are unsure on how lupus forms, a cure remains elusive as well. When the word "treatment" is discussed in the context of lupus, it's for controlling the symptoms, not curing the disease.1 However, there is some progress on the hunt for a cure.
In a study published in 2015 by Science Translational Magazine, researchers proposed that lupus cells have an overactive metabolism.
By blocking two metabolic pathways in T cells, they were able to reverse the symptoms on their test subjects, which were mice. The team concludes that more tests are needed to confirm the validity of the results before moving on to human testing, but the initial trial has shown promise.2,3
In treating lupus, medication is usually the first recommendation since it can control the symptoms, but be aware that it shouldn't be the only method for treatment. If it is absolutely necessary to take medication, be sure you know what you're getting into.
Do your research on your doctor's prescriptions for potential side effects and let him know your concerns.
The affected organs will dictate the kind of specialist you need to visit, so be sure to noteall signs and symptoms you have been experiencing before an appointment and agree on a treatment plan.
Over the course of treatment, regular consultation is very important so that you can discuss your progress and adjust the treatment as necessary.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are used to reduce discomfort and inflammation in your joints, muscles and other organs affected by lupus. However, NSAIDs have side effects such as:4
• Stomach pains
• Deteriorated kidney function
• Irregular heartbeat
Taking NSAIDs isn't generally recommended due to these complications. Consult with your doctor for other possible treatments before considering this option.
Early on, experts discovered that drugs that treat malaria can be used for lupus. The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center notes that "lupus patients on anti-malarials actually live longer than those who are not." Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) is the drug that is most prescribed in this type of treatment, as it has been reported with the least side effects that go away after a short time. Other drugs prescribed are Aralen (chloroquine) and Atabrine (quinacrine).5
However, you should be aware that there is a small chance of getting retinal damage with anti-malarial drugs so it is advised to visit your ophthalmologist and inform them of your treatment.6
Immunosuppressive medications treat lupus by preventing your immune system cells from dividing. The most common drugs used in this type of treatment are azathioprine (Imuran), mycophenolate (Cellcept), and cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, and Gengraf). Immunosuppressive drugs are only used for serious lupus attacks on vital organs such as the kidney, brain, heart and lungs.7
The major downside to this method is your increased exposure to other infections and an increased chance of developing certain cancers in the future. Be sure to consult with your doctor and use this drug only if there are no options left.8
A fast-acting medication, corticosteroids work similar to immunosuppressive drugs, and are normally given in the lowest dosage possible to ward off any side effect. This type of medication can be given if lupus attacks your heart, lungs, kidneys, brain or blood vessels in the form of an I.V. or a pill.9
Due to their similarity with immunosuppressive drugs, corticosteroids have similar major side effects such as diabetes, muscle weakness, cataracts, bone damage and a high risk of infection. Again, it is highly important to weigh this option with your doctor due to the serious side effects.10