Systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus or SLE for short, is an incurable autoimmune disease that has the potential to affect any part of the body from the heart to the skin to the blood. Since lupus can affect any part of the body, there are a number of medications available for treating this condition. Corticosteroids are frequently prescribed for treating certain lupus symptoms, and although they often work amazingly well, there is the potential for serious side-effects, especially with long-term use. Methotrexate and similar immunosuppressants are quite dangerous and can cause a wide variety of even more serious side effects, even cancer. Due to the potential side effects of many medications commonly prescribed to treat lupus, many patients are often reluctant to agree to take such medications. There are, however, some medications that don’t cause quite as many risks as some medications do, and compared to some, these medications are relatively safe, although they do come with their own possibility of side effects, only not usually as serious.
Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) – This medication is actually an anti-malarial, although it has been discovered to help to keep certain lupus symptoms in check. Usually taken twice a day, compared to some of the more toxic medications sometimes used to treat lupus, hydroxychloroquine causes minimal side effects in most people. The disadvantages of this particular medication are first of all, it takes quite a while to build up in the body before it becomes effective, sometimes as long as 10-12 months, and after extended use, this medication can sometimes cause eye trouble.
Ultracet – This is a Tylenol-based pain reliever that also contains Tramadol, a medication that works like a narcotic, although it doesn’t have the same properties as narcotics. Often prescribed for the arthritic-type pain that accompanies lupus, Ultracet can be habit forming if taken excessively, but it is one of the more well tolerated pain medications for lupus patients with moderate to moderately severe pain. Another plus of taking Ultracet for pain is the fact that it won’t affect the stomach like NSAIDS have the potential to do.
Aspirin – Since many lupus patients suffer from blood and heart involvement with their disease, there is a higher chance of suffering a stroke or heart attack. Many physicians treating lupus patients will suggest that one baby aspirin be taken each day in order to keep the blood thin and lessen any chances of having a serious heart attack or stroke.
Triamcinolone Acetonide – People with lupus often suffer from a number of different types of rashes related to their disease, whether sun-related or not. This ointment, although it contains steroids, is basically safe and usually doesn’t have to be used for extended periods of time. It’s usually well-tolerated, easy to apply, and works quite quickly at relieving the itching of certain lupus-related rashes.
Chloroquine (Aralen) – Similar to hydroxychloroquine, this medication is also a commonly prescribed anti-malarial that works in the same way that hydroxychloroquine does. Even though it’s well-tolerated by most people, it’s usually not prescribed as frequently as hydroxychloroquine because patients taking this medication often have a higher instance of eye trouble. Despite the fact that Chloroquine can cause eye problems, it is still considered a great deal safer than common lupus drugs like Methotrexate, corticosteroids and Imuran.
Lupus is a potentially serious disease that often requires some serious medication. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with this disease, there is no reason to worry, because all medications used to treat lupus aren’t toxic and cancer-causing like many people tend to believe. I remember when my sister was first diagnosed with lupus and doctor’s put her on corticosteroids in addition to Hydroxychloroquine, Methotrexate and a few other medications. I always told myself that I would never take any of these medications if I was ever diagnosed with lupus, and of course I never thought I would develop the same awful disease. Now that I have been diagnosed, I take Hydroxychloroquine, Ultracet and a few other medications for another condition, and I have not noticed any horrible side effects like my sister had with prednisone and Methotrexate. I hope and pray that I’ll never need any other medications than what I take now, since they’re all relatively safe compared to many others.
Ultracet Information Page – http://www.drugs.com/ultracet.html
Lupus Treatments Page – http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_learntreating.aspx?articleid=2246&zoneid=525