Lupus, also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE, is a complex disease that can be difficult to diagnose. It affects many areas of body including the joints, skin and kidneys. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with lupus each year. Like other autoimmune diseases, in lupus, cells essentially make the bad decision to attack the body’s own cells.
A large randomized trial that compared induction therapy consisting of oral mycophenolate mofetil with cyclophosphamide therapy in patients with lupus nephritis showed that mycophenolate mofetil was not inferior to cyclophosphamide.  The investigators suggested that mycophenolate mofetil was associated with both a trend toward greater complete remissions and a greater safety profile.  This study’s findings were confirmed with the large, international Aspreva Lupus Management Study (ALMS) trial. 
The ACR recommends ANA testing in patients who have two or more unexplained signs or symptoms listed in Table 2.2,20,21 [Reference2—Evidence level C, consensus/expert guidelines] Because of the high rate of false positive ANA titers, testing for systemic lupus erythematosus with an ANA titer or other autoantibody test is not indicated in patients with isolated myalgias or arthralgias in the absence of these specific clinical signs.45 Under most circumstances, a persistently negative ANA titer (less than 1:40) can be assumed to rule out systemic lupus erythematosus.41
Flare-ups of lupus can cause acute inflammation and damage to various body tissues and can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. Some of the most common symptoms are painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, kidney problems and extreme fatigue. A characteristic red skin rash – called a “malar” or “butterfly” rash because it roughly mimics the insect’s shape – may appear across the nose and cheeks. Rashes may also occur on the face and ears, upper arms, shoulders, chest, and hands. Because many lupus patients are sensitive to sunlight, skin rashes often develop or worsen after sun exposure.
If your doctor suspects you have lupus based on your symptoms, a series of blood tests will be done in order to confirm the diagnosis. The most important blood screening test is ANA. If ANA is negative, you don’t have lupus. However, if ANA is positive, you might have lupus and will need more specific tests. These blood tests include antibodies to anti-dsDNA and anti-Sm, which are specific to the diagnosis of lupus.
ANAs are proteins made by the body that can attach to DNA and other substances inside cells. But just because they are present in the body doesn’t necessarily mean they will attack these substances. These antibodies are found in at least 5% of the general population, so there are "many more people walking around with ANAs who are perfectly healthy or have some illness that has nothing to do with lupus," adds Dr. Belmont.
As with all autoimmune conditions, lupus is a disease of the immune system. Your immune system has a very sophisticated mechanism for keeping you safe that it uses to identify the foreign substances that you come into contact with every day, such as allergens, toxins, infections, and even food. If your immune system deems anything dangerous, it will produce antibodies to ward off the harmful intruders.
“My message to patients is that we can do an excellent job of managing the condition compared to 20 years ago,” says Roberto Caricchio, MD, the interim section chief of rheumatology at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and the director of the Temple Lupus Clinic at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. With that said, people should never underestimate the serious effects lupus can have, he adds, which is why working with your doctor to manage the condition is so important.
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