Overview of Prednisone for Treating Lupus

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Prednisone is a corticosteroid and, with respect to people with lupus, is used to treat inflammation and help suppress the immune system. Doctors may prescribe it alone or in conjunction with other medications.

The drug is also used to treat conditions related to lupus, such as arthritis and certain related conditions that affect the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys, blood, thyroid, stomach, and intestines.

It is also used to replace steroids in certain patients who do not naturally produce enough steroids needed by the body for normal function.

It is extremely effective in treating active lupus, and symptoms often rapidly dissipate. Those with mild cases of active lupus may not need the drug at all.

Taking Prednisone

Generally speaking, prednisone comes in tablets of 1, 5, 10, and 20 milligrams (mg). Dosage varies by patient and may be taken anywhere from four times a day to once every other day. Your doctor will determine your regimen.

Possible Side Effects

Contact your doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • inappropriate happiness
  • extreme changes in mood
  • changes in personality
  • bulging eyes
  • acne
  • thin, fragile skin
  • red or purple blotches or lines under the skin
  • slowed healing of cuts and bruises
  • increased hair growth
  • changes in the way fat is spread around the body
  • extreme tiredness
  • weak muscles
  • irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • decreased sexual desire
  • heartburn
  • increased sweating

Serious Side Effects

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • vision problems
  • eye pain, redness, or tearing
  • sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection
  • seizures
  • depression
  • loss of contact with reality
  • confusion
  • muscle twitching or tightening
  • shaking of the hands that you cannot control
  • numbness, burning or tingling in the face, arms, legs, feet, or hands
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • lightheadedness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • sudden weight gain
  • swelling or pain in the stomach
  • difficulty breathing
  • rash
  • hives
  • itching

The drug has also been shown to possibly increase the risk that patients will develop osteoporosis and an increased risk of certain infections.

Avascular necrosis of bone can also occur. This condition, most often occurring in the hip, shoulders, knees, and joints, produces pain, an abnormal bone scan, and an atypical X-ray appearance. And those taking steroids are also at an increased risk for premature arteriosclerosis, a narrowing of the blood vessels by fat deposits.

Speaking with your healthcare provider about prednisone or any other medicine or treatment will help you determine the best ways to decrease your chances of experiencing side effects or developing other diseases or conditions.

Sources:

Prednisone. National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health. November 2008.

Prednisone. The Lupus Foundation of America. November 2008.