Chemotherapy As A Lupus Treatment Option

In cases where patient symptoms become severe or life threatening, immunosuppressant treatments may be necessary. Learning about chemotherapy and lupus will help you gain an understanding of the costs and benefits of this route of treatment, as well as if it’s the right course of action for you.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to treat diseases in the body, particularly by killing micro-organisms or rogue cells. Healthy cells are sometimes damaged but are typically able to repair themselves.

Most people associate chemotherapy with cancer, but it is actually used to treat a variety of illnesses. Over 100 chemo drugs are available as pills, injections, ointments or through an IV.

How Is Chemotherapy Used As a Lupus Treatment?

Chemotherapy is used when lesser medications are no longer helping symptoms or when a major organ such as the heart, lungs or brain is losing functionality. They may also be used temporarily in order to lower necessary steroid doses if the patient is suffering from side effects.

The immune system of individuals with lupus rapidly produce special antibodies called autoantibodies. The autoantibodies directly attack the body of the host. Chemotherapy is used to slow the reproduction process of the immune system or by destroying auto-antibodies. Certain chemotherapy drugs may be used to treat specific conditions such as a lupus rash or joint pain.
By suppressing the immune system, chemotherapy gives major organs the opportunity to heal and regain functionality. This treatment can make a lupus patient with extreme symptoms more comfortable, help push her condition into remission and even save her life.

What Are the Side Effects Of Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy has many side effects which range from mild to life threatening. Some patients experience little discomfort from the treatment while others may have to deal with extreme discomfort.

The most common side effects of chemotherapy are:
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Low platelet counts, which help the blood clot in the event of a cut
  • Nausea
  • Reduced red and white blood cell counts, which carry oxygen to your cells and fight infection.
Advanced side effects can include:
  • Increased risk of certain kinds of cancer
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver damage
  • Lung damage.
Identifying the symptoms of lupus and discussing them in depth with your doctor will help him determine whether you can benefit from chemotherapy or require a less aggressive course of treatment.