Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

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Treatment

There is currently no cure for lupus, although many patients may experience remissions of symptoms between flare-ups, often with the help of treatment.  The goals of treatment are to alleviate symptoms, to minimise the occurrence of flare-ups and to minimise and address the development of complications associated with SLE.  To help decrease the number of flare-ups, patients should get sufficient rest, maintain a degree of exercise, and should minimise stress and avoid exposure to ultraviolet light. 

Patients should work closely with their doctor and with their specialist (often a rheumatologist, a specialist in joint disease) to develop a treatment plan that is effective for them.  This plan is likely to change over time with changes in the patients’ symptoms, their general state of health and as new treatments become available.  Women wanting to become pregnant should talk to their doctor about their health and their medications.  Some treatments are safer than others for the fetus during pregnancy. 

The types of treatment that are used depend on what symptoms and complications the patient is experiencing at that time and their severity.  Patients may take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help alleviate pain and inflammation, though caution is needed if there is kidney disease.  Antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, and chloroquine may be given to help ease lupus skin and joint symptoms and to help inhibit flare-ups.  For more severe symptoms, corticosteroids (such as prednisone) and immunosuppressants (such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil or methotrexate) may be given  - despite their associated side effects. It is important to discuss and assess the risks and benefits associated with these drugs with your healthcare professional before starting.

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