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The Truth About Treating Lupus

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What you Need to Know about Medication Choices for Lupus

Did you know that no two cases of systemic lupus erythematosus are alike? The symptoms of lupus, an autoimmune disorder that can affect nearly any organ system in the body, can vary dramatically in severity.  Lupus commonly affects the skin, joints, blood cells, and kidneys. Of those diagnosed, 9 out of 10 are women. Patients of African American, Asian or Hispanic descent are at greater risk for developing lupus.

Depending on a patient’s symptoms, rheumatologists rely on a variety of medication choices to treat lupus, some of which are also used to treat other diseases, like cancer. For example, the following medications are used to treat lupus as well as other conditions:

  • Hydroxychloroquine – A medication that is commonly used to treat lupus symptoms. This drug was originally used to treat malaria.
  • Methotrexate – A medication used to treat the joint pain and swelling from arthritis due to lupus. This medication is also used in high doses to treat certain forms of cancer.
  • Cyclophosphamide – A medication that may be used to treat severe cases of lupus causing inflammation of the kidneys, heart, blood vessels or brain. This medication is also used to treat certain forms of cancer.

Common Medication Misconceptions

Because rheumatologists may choose to treat lupus patients with a medication that can also be used to treat cancer, some people may have the misconception that Lupus is a form of cancer. Rather, lupus patients may receive these medications to treat a completely different health condition. Rheumatologists are fortunate to utilize such medicines for other purposes to ensure the best health outcomes for patients with Lupus.

There are many medication regimens that are used to treat Lupus. If you have any questions regarding the medication you are currently taking to treat lupus, please speak to your health care provider.

Dr. Alana Levine is a rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery. She specializes in rheumatic autoimmune diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus, antiphospholipid syndrome, undifferentiated connective tissue disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.