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Drug-induced Lupus

Drug-induced Lupus

April 8, 2024
Drug-induced Lupus

Drug-induced lupus is a lupus-like condition that is triggered by a reaction to certain medications. It arises when some drugs cause lupus-like symptoms in vulnerable individuals. Unlike systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), this condition usually resolves after the problematic medicine is stopped.

Drug-induced lupus is more common in men since they are exposed to these medicines more frequently. Nonetheless, not everyone who takes these drugs develops the disease.

What Drugs Cause Induced Lupus?

The medicines most frequently associated with drug-induced lupus include:

·      Hydralazine for hypertension or high blood pressure.

·      Quinidine to treat malaria and irregular heart rhythms.

·      Procainamide to treat irregular heart rhythms.

·      Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitors to treat inflammation.

·      Hydrochlorothiazide for hypertension

It is important to note that not everyone who takes these medications will develop this condition.

What are the symptoms of drug-induced lupus?

The symptoms of this condition are similar to those of SLE. However, they generally tend to be less severe. Common symptoms include:

  • A butterfly-shaped rash on the face
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Flu-like symptoms of fever and fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Inflammation of the lung and heart that causes chest pain.
  • Neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Swelling of the legs and feet

It is important to note that, unlike SLE, major organs are rarely affected by this condition.

How do you know you have drug-induced lupus?

Diagnosing this condition is not always easy as its symptoms mimic those of traditional lupus. However, a doctor may suspect this type of lupus if a person develops symptoms after taking a medication known to cause this condition. Diagnosis is made by:

·      conducting physical examinations

·      taking a detailed medical history

·      performing blood tests

A chest X-ray and electrocardiogram (ECG) are also performed to check if the lungs and heart are affected. 

How quickly does it develop?

Drug-induced lupus can appear anywhere from several months to more than ten years of continuous therapy with the medication to develop. The risk of developing this condition also varies depending on the medication being taken.

For example, approximately 5% of hydralazine users and 20% of procainamide users may develop this condition when treated for one to two years at regular doses. The risk is generally less than 1% for the majority of other drugs, and less than 0.1% of users will get drug-induced lupus.

How long does drug-induced lupus last?

Lupus-like symptoms normally resolve after six months of stopping the medicine. However, in some cases, symptoms may persist for several years.

Can drug-induced lupus be cured?

When a medicine is stopped, it usually goes away in a few weeks. However, some people may require treatment for several months.

How is drug-induced lupus treated?

The most important course of action is for the patient to, under the guidance of their physician, stop taking the medicine that causes the disease.

If someone is on multiple medications, it can be challenging for doctors to identify which one is causing drug-induced lupus due to variations in incubation times for each drug. To address this, doctors might suggest supervised “drug holidays,” where the individual stops certain medications for several months.

Typically, symptoms resolve within a few weeks after discontinuing the medicine. Blood tests show a return to normalcy. However, full recovery can take up to a year.

A person may require treatment for symptoms, which can include:

·      Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

·      Topical steroids for skin rash

·      Corticosteroids, like prednisone

·      Systemic medicines like hydroxychloroquine

If you are concerned about drug-induced lupus or are taking drugs associated with it, you should consult with your doctor. They can assess your risk and provide advice on how to manage the illness.

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