Understanding your medications

Lupus Foundation of America

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Medications used to treat lupus range in strength from mild to extremely strong. Often times, several drugs are used in combination to control the disease. However, all medications have side effects that require monitoring. In some cases, the medicines you take for lupus can cause side effects that require additional medications. Your physician needs to know of any and all side effects that occur as changes in dosage or medication may be required.

An effective way to keep track of a complex disease like lupus is with a daily medical diary or journal. This can be kept by you, or by a trusted family member or friend who can go with you to your doctor appointments. Details about medications, such as dosage and possible side effects, can be recorded, as well as questions to ask at your next appointment.

As medications are prescribed, your doctor or pharmacist should provide answers to the following questions, and you should keep the answers in your medical journal.

  • Why is the doctor prescribing this medication?
  • What is the name of the medication, both brand and generic (for example, Plaquenil / hydroxychloroquine)?
  • What should the medication look like (pill, capsule, cream, liquid, injection, etc.)?
  • Is it okay to substitute a generic version?
  • What is the best time of day to take the medication?
  • How should it be taken (with food, water, milk, on an empty stomach, etc.)?
  • What is the dosage being prescribed?
  • How often should it be taken (several times per day, once a day, weekly, etc.)?
  • What are the side effects, both common and unusual?
  • When should the doctor be called about any side effects?
  • How long will it take for the medicine to work?

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