Treating Lupus Symptoms with Steroids

The first class of medications used to treat lupus symptoms were medications that were available over-the-counter (OTC). Another class consists almost entirely of a class of medications that many detest. But, many people with an autoimmune disease take corticosteroids (glucocorticoids) at least once in their lives.

Corticosteroids, often referred to as glucocorticoids, steroids or cortisone, are used to suppress massive systemic inflammation, warmth and tenderness. These synthetic medications serve multiple purposes, but they also have multiple side effects such as growth of facial hair (particularly distressing to women) and weight gain, fluid retention and fragile skin, mood changes, and an increased risk of infection.

Steroids suppress the immune system so that it CAN’T fight back against what is causing the inflammation, but in so doing, the immune system can’t mount an immune response to germs and viruses. Care should be taken for hand-washing; though no special precautions need to be taken. Another side effect along with the seriousness of increased risk for infections, is the risk of osteonecrosis or avascular necrosis, also called aseptic necrosis. Briefly osteonecrosis means ‘dead bone.’ Blood feeds the bones, supplying them with oxygen and nutrients. For a reason unknown, there is a greater risk of osteonecrosis in people who take or have taken corticosteroids.

Diabetes can result from increase use of steroids; and in children, steroids also suppress growth.

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