There's no cure for Churg-Strauss syndrome, but certain medications may help even people with serious symptoms achieve remission. A good outcome and a reduced risk of complications from both the disease and its treatment are more likely when Churg-Strauss syndrome is diagnosed and treated early.
Medications used to treat Churg-Strauss syndrome include:
- Corticosteroids. Prednisone is the most commonly prescribed drug for Churg-Strauss syndrome. Your doctor may prescribe a high dose of corticosteroids or a boost in your current dose of corticosteroids to get your symptoms under control as soon as possible. But because high doses of corticosteroids can cause serious side effects, including bone loss, high blood sugar, weight gain, cataracts and hard-to-treat infections, your doctor will decrease the dose gradually until you're taking the smallest amount that will keep your disease under control. Even lower doses taken for extended periods can cause side effects, however.
- Other immunosuppressive drugs. For people with mild symptoms, a corticosteroid alone may be enough. Other people may require another immunosuppressive drug, such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran) or methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), to reduce the body's immune reaction still further. Because these drugs impair your body's ability to fight off infection and can cause other serious side effects, your condition will be closely monitored while you're taking them.
- Immune globulin. Given as a monthly infusion, immune globulin is generally given to people who haven't responded to other treatments. The most common side effects are flu-like symptoms that usually last just a day or so. Immune globulin has two major drawbacks, however: It's very expensive, and it doesn't work for everyone.
- Biologic medications. Drugs such as rituximab (Rituxan) that alter the immune system's response seem to improve symptoms and decrease the number of eosinophils. However, these medications have only been studied in small trials, and their long-term safety and efficacy is still unknown. These medications may be suggested for those who haven't responded to other treatments.
Because of the possible connection between montelukast and Churg-Strauss syndrome, your doctor may take you off this medication to see if your signs and symptoms improve.
Although drug therapy can relieve symptoms of Churg-Strauss syndrome — and send the disease into remission — relapses are common.
July 12, 2013
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