Diagnosis and Treatment of Lupus: More than 90 percent of people with lupus will experience joint and/or muscle pain that can be disabling. Lupus causes inflammation in the synovial tissues inside joints of fingers, wrists, feet, ankles and knees. As a result of this inflammation, non-erosive arthritis can develop that causes pain, stiffness and swollen joints. Decades before my lupus was diagnosed, arthritis was one of the first symptoms of my lupus that appeared as early as my kindergarten years, and recurred all through high school, college and early adult life.
Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription drugs, are used to used to control the pain and inflammation associated with lupus. Medications for inflammation include non-narcotic analgesics/anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naprosyn, sulindac, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Pain medications range from simple aspirin or acetaminophen to strong narcotics used for the most severe lupus pain. Persistent or severe inflammation at times requires the use of steroid medications to reduce swelling in involved joint tissues.
The Lupus Foundation of America provides the following information on NSAID medications used to treat painful inflammation.
“Pain and inflammation are common in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Sometimes these symptoms indicate serious organ involvement which may require powerful anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroids (cortisone, prednisone).
At other times the inflammation is not as severe or does not affect major organs, and a less potent drug is indicated. In these cases, other milder anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs can be used, especially a group of drugs called the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
While NSAIDs are not approved specifically for SLE by the Food and Drug Administration, they are approved for use in many musculoskeletal pain conditions such as arthritis and tendinitis, which also afflict people with lupus.”
See, the Lupus Foundation of America web site for more information on NSAID medications.
Other approaches to dealing with pain may include various therapies such as applying heat, gentle exercise to stimulate pain-releiving nature endorphins, prayer, meditation, bio-feedback and other non-chemical alternative approaches to pain management. The most effective methods for reducing and coping with my lupus pain include exercise, heat, acetaminophen and sometimes tramadol for the times I experience the most intense discomfort.
One of the reasons I first sought medical treatment for my lupus arthritis pain was because I was unable to take most over-the-counter NSAIDs, and on my own could find no relief for my pain and joint swelling. I had intense pain all night, lost a great amount of sleep, and sometimes could not walk without experiencing overwhelming pain and stiffness. Seeking help for my severe and unrelenting arthritis symptoms eventually led my doctors to find a reason for my symptoms, and this led to my lupus diagnosis.