Lupus Erythematosus Treatment: Antimalarial Drugs

Lupus Erythematosus is an immune system disease that manifests on the skin or may also involve the internal organs. The immune system releases a series of inflammatory cells, which will attack the patient’s body. Medication treatment can be used to suppress and manage the activity of the immune system. Antimalarial drugs may be indicated when the condition is less severe or in remission.

Antimalarial Drugs

Antimalarial drugs are typically used to prevent and treat patients with malaria or exposed to the disease. However, the drugs have been used for over half a century in controlling rheumatoid diseases, arthritis and lupus. There are numerous anti malarial drugs that may be used:

  • Quinine
  • Chloroquine or hydroxichloroquine
  • Amodiaquine

In lupus, chloroquine and hydroxichloroquine are most commonly used.

Effects of Antimalarial Drugs

The anti malarial drugs may be effective in managing lupus symptoms. The treatment will act as an anti inflammatory medication and may also reduce the effects of the UV rays on patients with lupus. UV rays can typically trigger lupus outbreaks, so patients will be advised to avoid exposure to sun or artificial ultra violets.

In some patients, the treatment with antimalarial drugs may also prevent hair loss (which may be present in patients affected by lupus). Possible effects of anti malarial drugs in patients with lupus include:

  • Reduced lesions that affect the mouth, nose or vaginal area
  • Reduced joint pain
  • Reduced fatigue

When Antimalarial Drugs Are Recommended

Antimalarial drugs cannot be used in all lupus patients. Typically, antimalarial drugs are recommended only when the patient’s condition is less severe and there are only mild symptoms that are present on the skin or the patient’s joints.

The treatment may also be recommended when the patient is during a remission period, to prevent lupus flare-ups. The treatment is typically not combined with any other lupus treatment. However, if the patient starts developing severe symptoms, the anti malarial treatment should be replaced with corticosteroids or cytotoxic therapy.

Possible Side Effects

The antimalarial treatment may have side effects, especially because the treatment is administered for a longer period of time in lupus patients. Common, less severe side effects of anti malarial drugs include:

  • Vomiting and liquid feces
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite

More serious side effects of the treatment may include:

  • Corneal problems (for this reason, frequent ophthalmologic exams should be performed in lupus patients under antimalarial treatment)
  • Skin whitening or hyperpigmentation
  • The hair may become a lighter color
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Dry skin and flakiness
  • Liver problems
  • Heart tremors (in rare cases and typically when the drugs are administered in higher doses)

There may also be various blood abnormalities that will show when blood tests are performed. Most of these side effects are reversible once the treatment is stopped. The treatment should be administered with caution to children and is not recommended in pregnant women or lactating mothers.

Have specific questions?

All Article Categories

Before & After Photos

Suggested Doctors

Recently Asked Questions