Finding the treatment approach for you
Lupus symptoms vary from person to person. Usually, the best treatment approach is to work with your health care team to tailor your treatment to your specific symptoms.
Choosing the right doctor
A rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the joints and muscles, typically treats people with lupus. If lupus has caused damage to specific organs, you may need to see other types of doctors too.
For instance, you may need to see a dermatologist for lupus that affects the skin, a cardiologist for heart disease, a nephrologist for kidney disease, a neurologist for brain and nervous system disease, or a gastroenterologist for gastrointestinal tract disease. If you are considering pregnancy, you may need to see an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.
You will work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan. This will be based on your age, symptoms, general health, and lifestyle. The goals of your treatment plan are to:
- Control symptoms like joint pain and fatigue
- Reduce inflammation caused by lupus
- Suppress your overactive immune system
- Prevent flares and treat them when they occur
- Minimize damage to organs
Doctors treat lupus using many different medicines. It can take months – or even years – to find the right combination of medicines to control your symptoms.
Medicines commonly used to treat lupus include:
- Anti-inflammatories like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Corticosteroids like prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, and hydrocortisone
- Antimalarials like hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®) and chloroquine
- Biologics like the monoclonal antibody belimumab (Benlysta®)
- Immunosuppressives like cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®), methotrexate (Rheumatrex™), and azathioprine (Imuran®)
- Anticoagulants like aspirin, heparin (Calciparine®), and warfarin (Coumadin®)
People with lupus may also need other medicines to treat conditions often seen with the disease. Examples include:
- Diuretics for fluid retention
- Antihypertensive drugs for high blood pressure
- Anticonvulsants for seizure disorders
- Antibiotics for infections
- Bone-strengthening drugs for osteoporosis