Years ago, being diagnosed with lupus, a serious autoimmune disease more common in women that can attack any part of the body, used to be a death sentence. Fortunately with advancements in treatments, lupus patients are able to live longer, higher quality lives, making this disease no longer a death sentence for everyone who has it. Prednisone, a popular corticosteroid used to treat a variety of diseases and condition, including lupus, is known for its ability to quickly reduce inflammation and other symptoms, although it has the potential to cause a variety of not-so-pleasant side-effects. One of these side-effects is elevated blood sugar levels, which could eventually lead to diabetes or worsen the diabetes of those who already suffer from it. Surprisingly, new research has revealed that women with lupus who take the medication hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), the anti-malarial often used to treat lupus, have lower fasting blood sugar levels even if they take prednisone.
A research study was conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, with intentions of discovering whether there are any tests that could predict low blood sugar in women with lupus taking hydroxychloroquine. 161 women with lupus who had no history of diabetes or heart disease were required to give blood samples after fasting for 24 hours. Some of the women were taking the medication hydroxychloroquine and others weren’t. Researchers had to separate each blood sample according to the age of the woman, the level of disease activity, prednisone dose, whether the woman was pre or post-menopausal, waist size as well as level of inflammation. All of these influences had the ability to alter the results of the research, so adjustments were necessary.
The research study concluded that the women who were taking hydroxychloroquine had lower fasting blood sugar levels than the women who weren’t taking this particular medication. Furthermore, the lupus patients taking hydroxychloroquine were also found to be at a reduced risk of developing insulin resistance, as condition that often precedes diabetes and causes the cells of the body to ignore insulin production, resulting in both the insulin and glucose levels becoming elevated.
Researchers admit that further studies are necessary in order to clarify information that was found during this study. Future research studies will require larger amounts of participants in order to study greater amounts of female lupus patients in order to obtain more conclusive answers about the drug hydroxychloroquine and lower blood sugar levels.
Although hydroxychloroquine is not a treatment or a cure for high blood glucose levels, it can possibly treat lupus symptoms in those with mild symptoms while simultaneously putting them at a lower risk of suffering from elevated blood sugar levels. Of course hydroxychloroquine is not a substitute for corticosteroids and these two totally different classes of drugs work differently and at different rates. Corticosteroids generally work rather rapidly, while hydroxychloroquine can take weeks or even months before showing any improvement. If you have lupus and have been prescribed hydroxychloroquine, the study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh may make you feel more at ease knowing that the drug is not likely to cause elevated blood sugar, and in fact could cause the opposite.
Lupus Foundation Research Study Information – http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_empty.aspx?articleid=3521&zoneid=76
Mayo Clinic Corticosteroids Information – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/steroids/HQ01431
Mayo Clinic Insulin Resistance Information – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolic%20syndrome/DS00522