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How is lupus treated?

While there is currently no cure for lupus, there are several treatments available to help you manage it day-to-day, which are particularly effective if started early on.

These treatments aim to reduce flare ups and the severity of your symptoms. There are certain lifestyle changes that you can make, which we will cover later on, and our doctors can prescribe ongoing medication (if already prescribed), as well as write you sick notes if you need time off work to deal with a flare up.

Lupus medications

There are several lupus medications that a doctor may prescribe, including:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation and any pain experienced in your muscles and joints.

  • Corticosteroids

    Corticosteroids are usually only prescribed by a doctor when symptoms are severe. They can  reduce inflammation and bring the symptoms of a bad flare up under control.

    You'll be prescribed the lowest dose possible because of the possible side effects, which include high blood pressure and thinning of your bones and skin.
  • Hydroxychloroquine

    Hydroxychloroquine is effective at easing lupus symptoms.

    A doctor may refer you to a specialist who may decide to prescribe the use of hydroxychloroquine on a long-term basis to help prevent flare ups, control symptoms and to help prevent the complications.
  • Immunosuppressants

    Immunosuppressants can be used to suppress your immune system in severe cases. By doing so, these medicines can help to reduce the amount of damage that lupus can cause. These may be prescribed along with corticosteroids.
  • Belimumab and Rituximab (Biological therapies)

    These are new medicines that are only usually given to people with severe lupus after other treatments have failed to be effective. It is given slowly by infusion, directly into your veins over a few hours. 

Which treatment you're prescribes will vary on your symptoms and the severity of the condition. Some of them do have side effects, which the doctor will discuss with you.

Lifestyle changes

If you are diagnosed with lupus, there are several lifestyle changes that can provide benefits. These include:

  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Stopping smoking
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Get plenty of sleep and adequate rest

Lupus triggers

As we have mentioned, lupus often flares ups and symptoms become more pronounced for a period of time. Often, there are triggers that cause these flare ups, so knowing yours can help you manage your lupus. It could be stress, a lack of sleep, a bad diet or following an illness, like a cold.

You may also be advised to reduce your exposure to sunlight, as this is another known trigger. The sun affects the skin and a lupus rash can get worse when it is exposed to it. Try to cover up and wear a high SPF sun cream to protect yourself if you do go out in it.

Work with your doctor or specialist, as they can help you learn what your triggers may be.

What happens if lupus left untreated?

Lupus is potentially life threatening if left untreated. It can lead to organ damage and failure.

Some of the serious conditions that could arise from untreated lupus include kidney disease, cancer, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels), pleurisy (inflammation of the tissue layers lining the lungs) and pericarditis (inflammation of the fibrous sac surrounding the heart).

That is why it is so important to see a doctor if you recognise symptoms of lupus, as the sooner the treatment is started, the more effective it can be.