Hydroxychloroquine for the treatment and management of lupus

hydroxychloroquine for lupus
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mehvish Khan

Key Takeaways

  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) helps manage lupus symptoms such as joint pain, skin rashes, and fatigue.
  • By controlling inflammation, Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) helps to reduce the severity and frequency of lupus flares.
  • Hydroxychloroquine improves lupus patients’ quality of life in the long run by treating the disease’s symptoms and their long-term effects.
  • Close monitoring of the ideal dosage and possible side effects with healthcare providers is crucial to ensure hydroxychloroquine’s safe and effective use in treating lupus.

Overview

Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is important in managing chronic autoimmune lupus. Hydroxychloroquine is a common option for lupus symptom treatment due to its anti-inflammatory and flare-preventing characteristics. Alleviating lupus symptoms like joint pain, skin rashes, and fatigue improves the quality of life for lupus patients.

Hydroxychloroquine helps with symptoms and can slow the course of lupus, which means less organ damage and fewer problems in the long run. Patients with lupus must follow the advice of their healthcare professionals to determine the optimal dosage of medication while also monitoring for potential side effects.

Hydroxychloroquine and other antimalarials for lupus

Lupus patients may be prescribed antimalarial medications, such as quinacrine (Atabrine), in addition to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine (Aralen), which can cause more serious side effects. You can take Hydroxychloroquine with other lupus medications like corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, cytotoxic drugs, and NSAIDs without issues.

In most cases, the medication needs one to three months to begin producing its desired effect. Many lupus patients take hydroxychloroquine continuously for the rest of their lives to control their condition.

Other benefits of Hydroxychloroquine

There are numerous advantages to using Hydroxychloroquine to treat lupus, including:

  1. Lupus medications reduce inflammation, joint pain, thin hair, lack of energy, sore muscles, skin rashes, fevers, pericarditis, and pleuritis.
  1. Prevent lupus inflammation from affecting critical organs like the spinal cord and brain.
  1. Protecting joints from lupus-related damage.
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How do Hydroxychloroquine control lupus symptoms?

Plaquenil, or hydroxychloroquine, is an effective medication for lupus symptoms because it reduces inflammation and influences the immune system. Hydroxychloroquine controls lupus symptoms through multiple pathways, though the exact mechanisms are not fully understood:

Immune system modulation

Hydroxychloroquine reduces inflammation by inhibiting certain white blood cell production by regulating the immune system. Lupus is characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissues and organs; this modulation helps to prevent this.

Anti-inflammatory effects 

Due to its anti-inflammatory nature, hydroxychloroquine helps alleviate swelling in various parts of the body, including the skin and internal organs. This alleviates pain, swelling, and skin rashes in the joints.

UV light protection

Hydroxychloroquine helps lupus patients avoid skin lesions and other symptoms by making a person less photosensitive. 

Prevention of organ damage 

Hydroxychloroquine reduces inflammation and protects vital organs like the kidneys, heart, and lungs from harm when used to treat lupus.

Delayed onset of lupus

Research has shown that Hydroxychloroquine may delay the start of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in certain patients. Lupus autoantibodies are thought to play a role in the disease’s onset and progression; the drug’s capacity to inhibit their production may explain this delay.

To manage your lupus symptoms, get Hydroxychloroquine prescriptions from our qualified professionals online.

When to take Hydroxychloroquine for lupus?

Hydroxychloroquine is often prescribed as a first line of treatment for lupus patients, especially those who experience skin and joint symptoms. While the treatment takes effect, flare-ups or symptoms of lupus may continue for up to three months. Many lupus patients take hydroxychloroquine continuously for the rest of their lives to control their condition.

Dosage of Hydroxychloroquine for lupus

The recommended dosage of Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine) for both forms of lupus is 200 mg or 400 mg once daily. Your doctor will assess your condition and prescribe the optimal dosage, which may be adjusted to achieve the desired effect.

Precautions and Interactions

Hypoglycemia, restlessness, and abnormal behavior are some of the possible side effects of Hydroxychloroquine. If you experience any unusual symptoms, it is critical to inform your doctor. The interaction between Hydroxychloroquine and other drugs may raise the risk of adverse cardiac rhythm events.

What do you do if Plaquenil does not work for lupus?

If Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine) proves ineffective in managing lupus, it is crucial to engage with your doctor. They may suggest adjusting the dosage, exploring alternative formulations, or considering other treatments to address your symptoms better. Adhering to your doctor’s guidance is essential, and altering or discontinuing your medication without medical advice should be avoided.

Are there specific considerations for pediatric lupus patients using Hydroxychloroquine?

Key considerations for pediatric patients using hydroxychloroquine encompass:

  1. Seeking guidance from a pediatrician or a healthcare professional experienced in treating children with lupus for age-appropriate dosing and monitoring.
  2. Regularly assess the patient’s response to the medication and make dosage adjustments as necessary.
  3. Encourage the patient to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to mitigate the potential impacts of hydroxychloroquine on overall health.
  4. Providing education to the patient and their caregivers about the significance of adhering to the prescribed treatment plan and promptly reporting any observed side effects or concerns to the healthcare team.

What foods make lupus worse?

However, some general dietary guidelines for managing lupus include:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  • Restricting the consumption of processed foods which may harbor artificial additives capable of inducing inflammation.
  • Ensuring proper hydration by drinking ample water to mitigate the risk of kidney stones is a prevalent concern for those with lupus.
  • Steering clear of foods known to trigger allergies or intolerances, such as dairy, gluten, or shellfish, if they are identified as potential culprits for flare-ups.
Consult now with our qualified experts to get your Hydroxychloroquine Prescription!

When should I see a doctor?

If your lupus symptoms worsen, cause you distress, or have any other serious side effects, you should consult a doctor immediately. Keeping your scheduled follow-up appointments with your doctor will allow them to track how well your treatment is working and address any changes in your health condition.

Lupus patients with skin and joint involvement are usually first-line candidates for hydroxychloroquine treatment. People with lupus find it helpful for managing skin rashes, easing joint pain, preventing blood clots, and improving their quality of life.

FAQs about Hydroxychloroquine for lupus

Can Hydroxychloroquine be taken during pregnancy?

Yes, Hydroxychloroquine is generally considered safe during pregnancy. The benefits of continuing the medication to control lupus symptoms often outweigh the potential risks. However, a thorough discussion with your doctor is crucial for personalized advice based on your specific health situation.

Can I stop taking Hydroxychloroquine suddenly?

No, it is generally not advised to abruptly discontinue Hydroxychloroquine as it may trigger a resurgence of lupus symptoms. If you experience improvement, your doctor might consider gradually reducing the dosage or exploring alternative medications. Before making any changes to your medication regimen, it is crucial to consult with your doctor for guidance.

Can you take Hydroxychloroquine with your other lupus treatments?

Yes, Hydroxychloroquine is compatible with other lupus treatments, including steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), immunosuppressants, or cytotoxic drugs. Often prescribed in combination with other medications, it effectively manages lupus symptoms and helps prevent organ damage.

Are there specific guidelines for administering Hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is typically taken orally once or twice daily by adults in doses between 200 and 400 mg. Always follow the dosing and administration instructions given to you by your doctor, as well as any particular advice your pharmacist may give.

Can Hydroxychloroquine completely cure lupus?

Hydroxychloroquine is an effective lupus treatment but does not provide a permanent solution. Managing symptoms, preventing organ damage, and improving the patient’s quality of life are the primary goals of lupus treatment. Hydroxychloroquine reduces the likelihood of blood clots, alleviates joint pain, and controls several lupus symptoms.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Dima, Alina, et al. “Hydroxychloroquine in systemic lupus erythematosus: overview of current knowledge.” Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease 14 (2022): 1759720X211073001.
  • Chandra, Subhash, Sarla Saklani, and Hassan Y. Aboul-Enein. “Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate (Plaquenil): A Possible Candidate for Pandemic SARS-CoV-2 or (COVID-19)?.” Coronaviruses 2.10 (2021): 2-9.
  • Jallouli, Moez, et al. “Hydroxychloroquine-induced pigmentation in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: a case-control study.” JAMA dermatology 149.8 (2013): 935-940.
  • Osmani, Z., W. Zacouris-Verweij, and S. Otter. “FRI0340 Dosage of hydroxychloroquine (PLAQUENIL) online survey by patient organisation nvle.” Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 77 (2018): 706.

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