Corticosteroids for Lupus
High doses of prednisone may be used for short periods of time. The dose is then gradually reduced.
How It Works
Why It Is Used
Corticosteroids are used to control moderate to severe problems caused by lupus, including inflammation, pain, and tissue damage throughout the body.
Low-dose corticosteroids may be used to treat:
High-dose corticosteroids are used to treat severe or life-threatening problems including:
How Well It Works
Corticosteroids often dramatically improve many symptoms of lupus. Some conditions respond in as little as a few days, while others may take several weeks of corticosteroid therapy.1
The effects of corticosteroids can include:
Corticosteroids are prescribed and monitored carefully because they cause significant side effects.
Corticosteroids cause a wide variety of side effects, some of which can be severe. The risk of side effects is especially high when corticosteroids are taken in high doses for long periods of time. There are times when it can be difficult to distinguish between corticosteroid side effects and lupus symptoms, such as fatigue or joint pain.
Most common and reversible corticosteroid side effects:
Common and irreversible corticosteroid side effects:
Uncommon and irreversible corticosteroid side effects:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
If your main symptoms are pain, fatigue, or fever, many experts consider it best to avoid the side effects of steroids and try to control your symptoms with other medication, such as NSAIDs or antimalarials.
It is common to try to find a maintenance dose of steroids (taken daily or on alternate days) that is low enough to avoid serious side effects but high enough to control symptoms. You may start at a higher dose and then reduce the dose gradually after your symptoms have been controlled. If the dose that controls symptoms causes unacceptable side effects, another medication may also be used, such as an antimalarial or immunosuppressant.
To prevent osteoporosis while taking long-term corticosteroids, get plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and consider a preventive medicine, such as alendronate or risedronate. To come up with a plan that fits your needs, you may want to work with your doctor or a registered dietitian. Weight-bearing exercise also helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis. For more information, see the topic Osteoporosis.
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