Medication-Induced Lupus Symptoms and Treatment

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Drug-induced lupus (DIL) is a rare adverse reaction to medications that mimic the symptoms of the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). It usually begins after a person has taken a drug for at least three to six months.

Drug-induced lupus is completely reversible once the drug is discontinued.

Which Medications Cause Drug-Induced Lupus?

More than 40 drugs have been known to cause this form of lupus, but several are considered primary culprits. They are mainly drugs used to treat chronic conditions such as heart disease, thyroid disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), neuropsychiatric disorders, inflammation, and epilepsy.

The three drugs usually involved in drug-induced lupus are:

  • procainamide (brand name Pronestyl, used to treat heart arrhythmia)
  • hydralazine (brand name Apresoline, used to treat hypertension)
  • quinidine (brand name Quinaglute, used to treat heart arrhythmia)


Drug-induced lupus can affect people who take the culprit drugs for months or years continuously.

If you're experiencing drug-induced lupus, you may have symptoms that are similar to what people with SLE experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fever
  • General ill feeling (malaise)
  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pleuritic chest pain
  • Skin rash across the bridge of nose and cheeks that gets worse with sunlight
  • Weight loss

These symptoms can appear gradually or quickly. A clue that someone is experiencing drug-induced lupus and not just a side effect of the medication is that they've taken the drug for an extended period of time with no prior symptoms.

Testing and Treatments

When considering drug-induced lupus, your doctor may perform a physical exam, blood tests, a chest x-ray, and an electrocardiogram.

The three types of blood tests used to diagnose drug-induced lupus are:

  • Antihistone antibody
  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel
  • Complete blood count (CBC)

The good news is that once you stop taking the offending medication, your symptoms should clear up within a matter of days or weeks.

In the meantime, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your symptoms. These medications may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid creams and antimalarial drugs.

Your symptoms will probably return if you begin taking the medication again, so discuss alternatives with your doctor.

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Article Sources

  • Drug-Induced Lupus Erythematosus. MedlinePlus.

  • Drug-Induced Lupus. The Lupus Foundation of America.