Lupus is an autoimmune disease which, for many reasons, is hard to detect until it becomes well rooted in the body. Lupus braves struggle as their own immune system mistakenly attacks itself, oftentimes leading to systemic inflammation and irreversible organ damage. The side effects may be difficult to manage and although there is no cure for lupus at this time, there are effective treatment options available. There is also hope on the horizon with much research being conducted for lupus management and a cure.
How is lupus treated?
While there is no cure for lupus at this time, treatment focuses on three things:
- Prevention of flares.
- Treatment of flares when they happen.
- Minimizing organ damage and disease progression
Current lupus guidelines have shown that when treatment is started early and used regularly as prescribed by a rheumatology expert, symptoms will improve.
Types of medicines commonly used to in lupus treatment include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help reduce pain and swelling in joints and muscles.
- Corticosteroids such as prednisone can be used to manage pain as well as inflammation in the body. As steroids help you reduce inflammation, your lupus flare will end and you may go into remission. Once this has happened, your doctor may lower your dose slowly until you no longer need it. Always take these medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
- Antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and chloroquine phosphate (Aralen) help to treat joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, and inflammation. Studies have found that taking antimalarial medicine increased the rate of survival in lupus patients taking them.
- BLyS-specific inhibitors such as belimumab work by blocking the activity of a certain protein in people with SLE and lupus nephritis. This monoclonal antibody works to reduce the survival and production of autoantibodies.
- Immunosuppressive agents/chemotherapy are used in treatment resistant lupus patients. They are not commonly used because of their harmful side effect profiles.
- Other medicines may be used to prevent and manage the systemic effects of lupus. These medications may include bone and heart health medications, blood thinners, and antidepressants when needed.
In addition to these treatment options, lupus braves manage their condition by:
- Appropriate rest
- Exercise such as pilates, yoga, tai chi, swimming, biking, and low impact aerobics.
- Acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and massages for pain management.
- Removing stressors from environment
- Reaching out to your support system
- Eating a balanced diet
New research and hope on the horizon
Living with a chronic condition leaves your mind in a state of in-betweens. You go from doing your absolute best to stay well while continuously looking for a permanent cure. Lupus braves are no different. As a healthcare provider, I understand your urgency and I continue to encourage a positive and hopeful outlook. I want to remind you that many brilliant researchers, scientists, and healthcare providers are at this very moment working on a cure for lupus.
For more than a decade, new research has begun to focus more on something called precision medicine. This type of medicine focuses on understanding the role of genetics and disease treatment. The hope is that in the future, treatments will be more personalized for you. This will make them more effective with fewer side effects.
In a condition like lupus where disease varies so greatly from person to person, it will be extremely beneficial to be able to have targeted treatment based on genetic profiles. It is my hope that while precision medicine will improve healthcare outcomes, it will also improve healthcare equity. New clinical trials not only focus on treatment but also access. In this clinical trial, it was concluded that being able to participate comfortably in decentralized trials can significantly improve necessary research outcomes.
By Nadia Bhatti