Lupus and Corticosteroid Treatments

One of the medication types most used by those dealing with lupus is called corticosteroid hormone treatments. These medications are related to cortisol which is a natural anti-inflammatory hormone that diminishes inflammation. These drugs are used because they are very fast acting. They will begin to relieve the inflammation immediate and at the same time they slow the disease down.

The health care provider will give their patient corticosteroids to try to push the disease into remission and keep it there as long as is possible. There are several different kinds of this type of medication that are commonly used. They include prednisone, hydrocortisone and dexamethasone.


These corticosteroids are used in a variety of ways. They can be given as pills, or by injection. They can also be applied directly on the skin in the form of creams or lotions. Since this type of medication is so strong the health care provider will try to use the smallest dose that is useful. In part this is also because these drugs can have a lot of side effects.

The side effects can include weight gain, retaining fluid, weakness in the muscles, blood sugar levels rising and problems with bone growth. But the bigger problem is that if there are serious issues of organ damage then it is necessary to keep the levels of corticosteroids high to prevent extensive damage to the bodys important organs.


Using a small dose is not always the first answer depending on what symptoms the patient is fighting. People with lupus who are fighting fever, pleurisy or arthritis who are showing no improvement with the non-corticosteroid drugs available to them will have to try these corticosteroid medications to improve their health. Lupus sufferers who are dealing with worse symptoms like seizures or anemia have no choice but to use higher doses to bring the disease under control.

Sometimes those who need higher doses must get them intravenously. This is called bolus therapy. This more aggressive treatment will bring things under control quicker and allow the medication to slowly be diminished until a lower dose, a maintenance dose, is all that is necessary.

Although higher doses can be dangerous the risks are offset by the faster results. Nonetheless there are guaranteed side effects with high doses, worse than when a person is on lower doses. These can include stomach upsets which can be countered by taking the medication with food.

They can also cause mood swings, cataracts if the medication is maintained at a high dose for many months or even joint damage. Most health care providers will avoid lengthy treatments at high doses if at all possible. But while their patients are on the corticosteroid treatment they will suggest the patient take calcium and other vitamins to help them through the treatment period.

The corticosteroid medication types must not be suddenly stopped. This could prove to be very unhealthy for the patient when dealing with this type of drug. Instead they must be gradually weaned off of them.