| The management of SLE should be comprehensive and include drug and non-drug treatment. Therapy is individualized for each patient depending on the manifestations of disease and their severity.
Systemic corticosteroid therapy is the mainstay of treatment in SLE. However, not all patients require steroids, and steroids can do more harm than good. When needed, oral maintenance doses of prednisone or prednisolone are usually prescribed.
Severe symptoms affecting the whole body, such as sustained high fevers and severe blood disorders, often need to be treated with higher doses of corticosteroids. Involvement of organs such as the heart, lungs, and central nervous system also usually requires treatment with corticosteroids.
A topical steroid is usually prescribed for skin rashes.
Mild symptoms of arthritis and muscular pain are usually managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as indomethacin, naproxen and ketoprofen. More severe symptoms may need an antimalarial agent and occasionally low doses of corticosteroids may be required.
The antimalarials chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine possess anti-inflammatory properties and have been found of benefit in treating inflammatory conditions which have an immunologic basis. They are usually used when other first-line therapies (such as NSAIDs) fail. They are prescribed for more severe skin and joint manifestations of SLE.
As long-term corticosteroid therapy, particularly at the higher doses, tends to cause side-effects, immunosuppressants such as azothiaprine, cyclophosphamide and methotrexate are sometimes added in an attempt to lower the dose of corticosteriod required. These drugs suppress the immune response. As immunosuppressants themselves pose a risk of long-term toxicity they need to used with care, but can be useful in the treatment of acute and severe organ involvement.
The threat of a chronic disease can be very stressful. Visiting a doctor frequently and having many laboratory tests with long waits for the results can be an emotional burden. Emotional support in the treatment of SLE is essential. It is also important that patients have extensive rest.
All possible means to prevent provocation or exacerbation of SLE should be undertaken. (See Prevention section.)
As SLE is an episodic disease and is characterized by exacerbation and remission, it is extremely important to withdraw therapy slowly when an exacerbation has quieted down. This avoids unnecessary drug toxicity.
Patients with SLE need a to see their doctors at least once every three to six months, even if the disease is inactive. Patients with active disease must be assessed more frequently.