Medication for SLE Lupus Symptoms

Medication for SLE Lupus SymptomsSystemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) symptoms are common in almost all lupus patients. Lupus is an autoimmune disease and because of that, also a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect many different areas of the body. The overactivity of the immune system by the lupus disease can cause unwanted responses by the body, one of which is massive inflammation. Common areas that lupus patients experience SLE lupus symptoms include:

  • Skin
  • Joints
  • Blood
  • Kidneys

Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Anti-inflammatrory medication can help ease the discomfort of SLE lupus symptoms by reducing inflammation and pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used for lupus symptoms because they quickly treat symptoms such as fever, arthritis or pleurisy. Once medication begins, these symptoms may subside within several days of beginning treatment. For some lupus patients, anti-inflammatory drugs may be the only medication they need to control their symptoms. Common anti-inflammatory drugs used for lupus symptoms are:

Aspirin is an inexpensive, over-the-counter drug that has pain-reducing, anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant (blood thinner) properties. Aspirin can help relieve pain from symptoms, but may cause stomach irritation with some people and there are cases of aspirin allergies.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
Despite what many people think, acetaminophen may not help with pain due to inflammation. Tylenol does not reduce swelling, but is a pain killer and can help with residual pain.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are a good anti-inflammatory medication and will help reduce pain from lupus symptoms. They are also useful for joint pain and stiffness. Some examples of NSAIDs are ibuprofen (Motrin®), naproxen (Naprosyn®), indomethacin (Indocin®), nabumetone (Relafen®), and celecoxib (Celebrex®). Many lupus patients have a preferred NSAID for their symptoms. Find which NSAID responds best for your particular symptoms. Be sure to always take NSAIDs with food to avoid serious gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach ulcers.

 Corticosteroids for Lupus Symptoms

Corticosteroids are pharmaceutical drugs that try and replicate the body's natural production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps regulate blood pressure and immune system activity. It is the body's most potent anti-inflammatory hormone. These steroids are different from the steroids that weight lifters or baseball players (like Barry Bonds…sigh) take to improve performance.

Corticosteroids work quickly to reduce the swelling, sensation of heat, pain and tenderness from symptoms. Essentially, the steroids limit the response of the immune system to the lupus symptoms, which typically is inflammation. Inflammation is your body's natural response to remove or repair an injury, in this case a skin irritation or joint problem cause by the symptoms. The corticosteroids pretty much say, "Whoa there immune system, hold back and let Cortisol handle this one."

Corticosteroid medications can be delivered in four main ways:

  • taken orally in a pill
  • delivered topically in a cream or gel
  • injected directly into muscle tissue or joint
  • given intravenously (IV) into the vein

Doctors will usually keep corticosteroid use for lupus symptoms at a minimum to reduce any side effects. Corticosteroid medication can cause a higher risk of infection, necrosis (premature death of the cells) of bone, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and fatigue, cataracts and even suppression of growth in children.

Lupus Antimalarial Drugs

Antimalarial medication is usually used in conjunction with other medications to treat SLE lupus symptoms. Antimalarial drugs are most often used for skin rashes, joint pain and mouth ulcers but can sometimes be prescribed for inflammation and blood clots. The two most common antimalarial medications prescribed for symptoms are hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®) and chloroquine (Aralen®). Antimalarial drugs do not respond as quickly as corticosteroids and may take months before results are seen.

Other Medications for SLE Lupus Symptoms

The three main types of medications used to treat lupus symptoms have been discussed, but there may be other medications prescribed by a physician for specific lupus treatments. Some of the other types of medications include:

  • Immunosuppressives (Immune Modulators)
  • Anticoagulants
  • Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs)

Each lupus medication comes with its own risks. Starting a new medication or stopping a drug you were previously taken has been known to cause symptoms. Talk to your physician about which medication is right for your specific SLE lupus symptoms.


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