The aim of this review is to provide an up-to-date overview of treatment approaches for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), highlighting the multiplicity and heterogeneity of clinical symptoms that underlie therapeutic decisions. Discussion will focus on the spectrum of currently available therapies, their mechanisms and associated side-effects. Finally, recent developments with biologic treatments including rituximab, epratuzumab, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, and belimumab, will be discussed.

Based on the identified evidence the panel concluded that compared with GCs alone, the addition of other IS (CYC, MMF or TAC) is associated with significant benefits, higher remission rates and lower progression rates to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Head-to-head comparisons between MMF, TAC and high-dose CYC showed that MMF and TAC are associated with less adverse effects than high-dose CYC. Between low and high-dose CYC the balance favours the former because of better safety profile and comparable efficacy, although this conclusion is based on one trial that included predominantly Caucasians. RTX did not provide additional benefits when combined with MMF.

Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone, are related to cortisol, which is a natural anti-inflammatory hormone. They work by rapidly suppressing inflammation. Corticosteroids can be given by mouth, in creams applied to the skin, by injection, or by intravenous (IV) infusion (dripping the drug into the vein through a small tube). Because they are potent drugs, the doctor will seek the lowest dose required to achieve the desired benefit.


Prednisone is used alone or with other medications to treat the symptoms of low corticosteroid levels (lack of certain substances that are usually produced by the body and are needed for normal body functioning). Prednisone is also used to treat other conditions in patients with normal corticosteroid levels. These conditions include lupus, certain types of arthritis; severe allergic reactions; multiple sclerosis (a disease in which the nerves do not function properly); and certain conditions that affect the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys blood, thyroid, stomach, and intestines. Prednisone is also sometimes used to treat the symptoms of certain types of cancer.

A biopsy is a procedure that removes a small piece of living tissue from your body. The tissue is examined with a microscope for signs of damage or disease. Biopsies can be done on all parts of the body. A biopsy is the only test that can tell for sure if a suspicious area is cancer. But biopsies are performed for many other reasons too. There are different ways to do a biopsy. A needle biopsy removes tissue with a needle passed through your skin to the site of the problem. Other kinds of biopsies require surgery.
When Griffiths et al compared the corticosteroid-sparing effect of cyclosporine with azathioprine in patients with severe SLE, they concluded that azathioprine may be considered first-line therapy, whereas cyclosporine requires close monitoring of blood pressure and serum creatinine. However, the investigators noted that in patients who are unable to tolerate azathioprine, cyclosporine may be considered. [136]
Libman-Sacks endocarditis is the most characteristic cardiac manifestation of lupus. It is characterized by clusters of verrucae on the ventricular surface of the mitral valve. These lesions consist of accumulation of immune complexes, platelets, and mononuclear cells. This can lead to heart failure, valvular dysfunction, emboli, and secondary infective endocarditis. Diagnosis is best made via echocardiography, which may reveal the characteristic valvular masses (arrows). IVS = interventricular septum; LA = left atrium; LV = left ventricle.

Opportunistic infections can develop, most often in patients receiving chronic immunosuppressive therapy. Another less-common complication is osteonecrosis, especially of the hips and knees after prolonged high-dose corticosteroid usage. More commonly, premature atherosclerotic disease and myocardial infarction are indolent complications of chronic inflammation and steroids.

Fernández-Nebro A, Rúa-Figueroa Í, López-Longo FJ, Galindo-Izquierdo M, Calvo-Alén J, Olivé-Marqués A, Ordóñez-Cañizares C, Martín-Martínez MA, Blanco R, Melero-González R, Ibáñez-Rúan J, Bernal-Vidal JA, Tomero-Muriel E, Uriarte-Isacelaya E, Horcada-Rubio L, Freire-González M, Narváez J, Boteanu AL, Santos-Soler G, Andreu JL, Pego-Reigosa JM 2015, ‘Cardiovascular Events in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Nationwide Study in Spain From the RELESSER Registry’, EAS-SER (Systemic Diseases Study Group of Spanish Society of Rheumatology). Medicine (Baltimore), vol. 94, no. 29, viewed 22 September 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26200625
The history of SLE can be divided into three periods: classical, neoclassical, and modern. In each period, research and documentation advanced the understanding and diagnosis of SLE, leading to its classification as an autoimmune disease in 1851, and to the various diagnostic options and treatments now available to people with SLE. The advances made by medical science in the diagnosis and treatment of SLE have dramatically improved the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with SLE.[105]
Lupus nephritis is one of the most common complications of lupus. (13) People with lupus nephritis are at a higher risk of developing end-stage renal disease, requiring dialysis or a transplant, says Kaplan. Symptoms of the condition include high blood pressure; swelling of the hands, arms, feet, legs, and area around the eyes; and changes in urination, such as noticing blood or foam in the urine, needing to go to the bathroom more frequently at night, or pain or trouble urinating.
The cause of SLE is not clear.[1] It is thought to involve genetics together with environmental factors.[4] Among identical twins, if one is affected there is a 24% chance the other one will be as well.[1] Female sex hormones, sunlight, smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and certain infections, are also believed to increase the risk.[4] The mechanism involves an immune response by autoantibodies against a person's own tissues.[1] These are most commonly anti-nuclear antibodies and they result in inflammation.[1] Diagnosis can be difficult and is based on a combination of symptoms and laboratory tests.[1] There are a number of other kinds of lupus erythematosus including discoid lupus erythematosus, neonatal lupus, and subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus.[1]
Most patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (unless they’re otherwise advised by their rheumatologist) should be taking an oral antimalarial drug — medications originally used to prevent a malaria infection, but that have been found to help with lupus symptoms, says Dr. Kramer. The antimalarial hydroxychloroquine helps prevent lupus flares, minimizes joint inflammation, and controls fever, fatigue, pleurisy (inflammation of the sac surrounding the lungs), and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). The drug is also “the backbone of therapy” for most skin rashes associated with lupus, says Kramer. Mouth sores may also be alleviated with this drug. Chloroquine and quinacrine are other antimalarials drugs used to treat lupus. (3)

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