Many of the symptoms of lupus result from inflammation in various tissues of the body. Cortisone, a steroid manufactured naturally by the body's adrenal glands, has been found to have a distinct anti-inflammatory effect.
Cortisone medications made synthetically are among the most effective anti-inflammatory drugs known. Although these drugs can cause undesirable side effects, their use can substantially reduce the symptoms associated with inflammation, such as:
Steroids produced by the outer part (cortex) of the adrenal gland are called corticosteroids.
- Corticosteroids are different from the "anabolic steroids" that weightlifters and other athletes sometimes take illegally to increase strength.
- Corticosteroid treatment usually relieves most symptoms promptly.
- Small or moderate doses of steroids are helpful in cases of:
- pleurisy (inflammation around the lung)
- pericarditis ( inflammation around the heart)
- Steroids can often be avoided completely in mild cases of lupus (i.e., those involving only the joints and skin).
- People with lupus should discuss with their physician the reasons for using steroids and other treatment alternatives which may be available.
Steroids produced by the outer part (cortex) of the adrenal gland are called corticosteroids . Corticosteroids are different from the “anabolic steroids” that weightlifters and other athletes sometimes take illegally to increase strength. Prednisone is the synthetic corticosteroid preparation most often used in the treatment of lupus. It comes in tablets of 1, 5, 10, and 20 milligrams (mg). It may be given as often as four times each day, as infrequently as once every other day, or at any frequency in between. 10 mg per day or less is generally considered a low dose; 11 to 40 mg daily is a moderate dose; and 41 to 100 mg daily is a high dose.
Steroids may also be given by intra-muscular (IM) injection into the skin for discoid rashes, or may be injected directly into a joint. Occasionally, very large doses of steroids may be given for a short period of time. This treatment, referred to as pulse steroids , involves giving 1000 mg of methyl-prednisolone intravenously each day for three days.