SLE is chronic and complex, and is often difficult to diagnose. First, there is no single laboratory test that can determine if a person has SLE. Second, many symptoms of SLE are similar to those of other diseases, and can come and go over weeks and months. Finally, doctors must look at a person’s medical history, rule out other diseases, and consider both physical and laboratory evidence before a SLE diagnosis. The symptoms of SLE vary from patient to patient. 
The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test is a blood test that measures inflammation in your body and is used to help diagnose conditions associated with acute and chronic inflammation, including lupus. It is usually used in conjunction with other tests, as the test itself is nonspecific. In other words, it can detect increases in inflammation, but it doesn't pinpoint where the inflammation is or point to a specific disease. Other conditions can affect outcomes of the test as well. The test is one that is usually conducted several times over a certain period to measure changes in inflammation.

A chronic inflammation of large arteries, usually the temporal, occipital, or ophthalmic arteries, identified on pathological specimens by the presence of giant cells. It causes thickening of the intima, with narrowing and eventual occlusion of the lumen. It typically occurs after age 50. Symptoms include headache, tenderness over the affected artery, loss of vision, and facial pain. The cause is unknown, but there may be a genetic predisposition in some families. Corticosteroids are usually administered.
Neonatal lupus is a rare form of temporary lupus affecting a fetus or newborn. It's not true lupus: It occurs when the mother’s autoantibodies are passed to her child in utero. These autoantibodies can affect the skin, heart, and blood of the baby. Fortunately, infants born with neonatal lupus are not at an increased risk of developing SLE later in life.
Immunoglobulins are formed by light and heavy (depending on molecular weight) chains of polypeptides made up of about 100 amino acids. These chains determine the structure of antigen-binding sites and, therefore, the specificity of the antibody to one antigen. The five types of immunoglobulins (IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, IgM) account for approximately 30% of all plasma proteins. Antibodies are one of the three classes of globulins (plasma proteins) in the blood that contribute to maintaining colloidal oncotic pressure.
If you have lupus, the autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue, then you know there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all “lupus diet.” But that doesn’t mean that a healthy diet isn’t important to lupus management. You need to eat meals that are balanced and heart-healthy, with nutrient-dense foods that minimize inflammation. It’s not complicated, but there are some basics to follow.
Neurological disorders contribute to a significant percentage of morbidity and mortality in people with lupus.[37] As a result, the neural side of lupus is being studied in hopes of reducing morbidity and mortality rates.[30] One aspect of this disease is severe damage to the epithelial cells of the blood–brain barrier. In certain regions, depression affects up to 60% of women with SLE.[38]
The 19th century's research into lupus continued with the work of Sir William Osler who, in 1895, published the first of his three papers about the internal complications of erythema exudativum multiforme. Not all the patient cases in his paper had SLE but Osler's work expanded the knowledge of systemic diseases and documented extensive and critical visceral complications for several diseases including lupus.[110] Noting that many people with lupus had a disease that not only affected the skin but many other organs in the body as well, Osler added the word "systemic" to the term lupus erythematosus to distinguish this type of disease from discoid lupus erythematosus.[114] Osler's second paper noted that reoccurrence is a special feature of the disease and that attacks can be sustained for months or even years. Further study of the disease led to a third paper, published in 1903, documenting afflictions such as arthritis, pneumonia, the inability to form coherent ideas, delirium, and central nervous system damage as all affecting patients diagnosed with SLE.[110]
Landmark research has shown clearly that oral contraceptives do not increase the rate of flares of systemic lupus erythematosus. This important finding is opposite to what has been thought for years. Now we can reassure women with lupus that if they take birth-control pills, they are not increasing their risk for lupus flares. Note: Birth-control pills or any estrogen medications are still be avoided by women who are at increased risk of blood clotting, such as women with lupus who have phospholipid antibodies (including cardiolipin antibody and lupus anticoagulant).

For people with joint or chest pain or fever, drugs that decrease inflammation, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are often used. Although some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are available over the counter, a doctor’s prescription is necessary for others. NSAIDs may be used alone or in combination with other types of drugs to control pain, swelling, and fever. Even though some NSAIDs may be purchased without a prescription, it is important that they be taken under a doctor’s direction.

Madeline Gilkes focused her research project for her Master's of Healthcare Leadership on Health Coaching for Long-Term Weight Loss in Obese Adults. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate in Aged Care, Bachelor of Nursing, Certificate IV Weight Management and Certificate IV Frontline Management. Madeline is an academic and registered nurse. Her vision is to prevent lifestyle diseases, obesogenic environments, dementia and metabolic syndrome. She has spent the past years in the role of Clinical Facilitator and Clinical Nurse Specialist (Gerontology and Education).
Donna Jackson Nakazawa, researcher, writer, and author of The Autoimmune Epidemic, says "patients with lupus do better if they follow an 'anti-autoimmune diet,' which means consuming whole foods, rather than processed foods. This means lamb, chicken, or turkey; fish with low mercury content; hormone-free eggs; organic vegetables and fresh fruits; whole grains from gluten-free sources; nuts and seeds; and olive, sesame, and flaxseed oils. It also means avoiding highly processed foods, including preserved bread products, cereals and snacks, preserved meats, and other foods that are often full of chemicals, preservatives, and additives."
The role of the immune system in causing diseases is becoming better understood through research. This knowledge will be applied to design safer and more effective treatment methods. For example, completely revising the immune system of people with extremely aggressive treatments that virtually temporarily wipe out the immune system is being evaluated. Current studies involve immune eradication with or without replacement of cells that can reestablish the immune system (stem-cell transplantation).
The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) vaccination recommendations for rheumatic diseases, including lupus, advocate baseline assessment and delivery of nonlive vaccines during stable disease. [150] Particularly important is immunization against encapsulated organisms, such as meningococcal vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, and routine Haemophilus influenzae childhood vaccination. Annual influenza vaccine is also encouraged.

The role of the immune system in causing diseases is becoming better understood through research. This knowledge will be applied to design safer and more effective treatment methods. For example, completely revising the immune system of people with extremely aggressive treatments that virtually temporarily wipe out the immune system is being evaluated. Current studies involve immune eradication with or without replacement of cells that can reestablish the immune system (stem-cell transplantation).

Limited evidence suggests that supplementation may be clinically beneficial in SLE patients with low levels of vitamin D. In Mediterranean patients,  female patients who were not receiving supplemental vitamin D showed more fatigue and received more oral corticosteroids than those with normal levels of vitamin D. [109] In Australian patients, an increase in serum vitamin D levels was associated with reduced disease activity over time. [152]


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex multisystemic autoimmune disease resulting, oftentimes, in irreversible damage, diminished quality of life and reduced life expectancy.1–3 Genetic and environmental factors play important roles in its pathogenesis.4–8 Disease manifestations and severity vary according to the patients’ racial/ethnic background and socioeconomic status (SES).1 9 10 Data from Grupo Latino Americano de Estudio del Lupus (GLADEL), Lupus in Minorities: Nature vs Nurture (LUMINA) and the Lupus Family Registry and Repository cohorts have demonstrated that Latin American and North American Mestizo patients (mixed Amerindian and European ancestry), African descendants and Native Americans develop lupus earlier11 12 although diagnostic delays may occur.1 They also experience more severe disease, have higher disease activity levels,1 accrue more organ damage2 and have higher mortality rates,1 succumbing mainly to disease activity and/or infections.1 3 13–15
Certain people may need to follow a slightly different diet. For example, pregnant women need to avoid eating certain foods; people with lupus nephritis (lupus affecting the kidneys) need to follow advice from their hospital dietician; and dietary advice for people over 60 and for children of various ages may also be different. The British Nutrition Foundation provides further advice and information about healthy eating and alternative diets. You can also find a lot more information in the links for further reading at the end of this article.
  According to the Mayo Clinic, “People with lupus should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that benefit overall health and can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and digestive disorders. Plant-based diets also support a healthy weight because they are naturally low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables are particularly high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body by destroying harmful substances that damage cells and tissue and cause heart disease and cancer.” Take a look at our blog, Lupus: the Diet Dilemma for some great tips. While these diets, or eating plans, may have some merit, individual foods should not be the focus. Pay attention to your overall pattern of nutrition. Reducing inflammation is not just about what you eat.  Patients should also know that these diets are never meant to be a replacement for the lupus treatments they may already be taking under the close supervision of a medical professional. Until more research is in on the effectiveness of these diets, be practical by getting enough sleep and exercise, and try to maintain a healthy weight. Back to top

Medications that suppress immunity (immunosuppressive medications) are also called cytotoxic drugs. They are sometimes referred to as chemotherapy because they are also used to treat cancer, generally in much higher doses than those used to treat lupus. Immunosuppressive medications are used for treating people with more severe manifestations of SLE, such as damage to internal organ(s). Examples of immunosuppressive medications include azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), chlorambucil (Leukeran), cyclosporine (Sandimmune), and the disease-modifying drug methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). All immunosuppressive medications can seriously depress blood-cell counts and increase risks of infection and bleeding. Immunosuppressive medications may not be taken during pregnancy or conceptionbecause of risk to the fetus. Other side effects are specific for each drug. For examples, methotrexate can cause liver toxicity, while cyclosporine can impair kidney function.


Many types of wild seafood provide omega-3 fats that help reduce inflammation levels. The best choices are wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, halibut, trout and anchovies. Aim to consume these omega-3 foods about two to three times weekly, or consider supplementing. Just be sure to buy “wild-caught” to reduce intake of things like heavy metals found in farm-raised fish, plus limit intake of fish high in mercury.
The EULAR recommendations indicate that in pregnant women with SLE, prednisolone, azathioprine, hydroxychloroquine (unnecessary discontinuation of hydroxychloroquine during pregnancy may result in lupus flares), and low-dose aspirin may be used. [61] Prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone are the corticosteroids of choice during pregnancy because of their minimal placental transfer. However, mycophenolate mofetil, cyclophosphamide, and methotrexate are strictly contraindicated. [61]
Landmark research has shown clearly that oral contraceptives do not increase the rate of flares of systemic lupus erythematosus. This important finding is opposite to what has been thought for years. Now we can reassure women with lupus that if they take birth-control pills, they are not increasing their risk for lupus flares. Note: Birth-control pills or any estrogen medications are still be avoided by women who are at increased risk of blood clotting, such as women with lupus who have phospholipid antibodies (including cardiolipin antibody and lupus anticoagulant).
However, the mainstays of treatment are corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone), hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), and dexamethasone (Decadron, Hexadrol). These drugs heavily suppress inflammation but can cause short-term side effects including swelling, increased appetite, and weight gain and long-term side effects including stretch marks on the skin, weakened or damaged bones, high blood pressure, damage to the arteries, diabetes, infections, and cataracts.
Jump up ^ Smyth, Andrew; Guilherme H.M. Oliveira; Brian D. Lahr; Kent R. Bailey; Suzanne M. Norby; Vesna D. Garovic (November 2010). "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Pregnancy Outcomes in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Lupus Nephritis". Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. 5 (11): 2060–2068. doi:10.2215/CJN.00240110. PMC 3001786. PMID 20688887. Archived from the original on 2016-01-26.
However, three placebo-controlled studies, including the Exploratory Phase II/III SLE Evaluation of Rituximab [EXPLORER] trial and the Lupus Nephritis Assessment with Rituximab [LUNAR] trial, [124, 125] failed to show an overall significant response. Despite the negative results in these trials, rituximab continues to be used to treat patients with severe SLE disease that is refractory to standard therapy.

Patients with SLE should be educated to avoid triggers for flare. Persons with SLE should avoid ultraviolet light and sun exposure to minimize worsening of symptoms from photosensitivity. Diet modification should be based on the disease activity. A balanced diet is important, but patients with SLE and hyperlipidemia, for example, should be placed on a low-fat diet. Many patients with SLE have low levels of vitamin D because of less sun exposure; therefore, these patients should take vitamin D supplements. Exercise is important in SLE patients to avoid rapid muscle loss, bone demineralization, and fatigue. Smoking should also be avoided.

Note: Ultimately, in patients with kidney disease from systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus nephritis), a kidney biopsy may be necessary to both define the cause of the kidney disease as being lupus-related as well as to determine the stage of the kidney disease in order to optimally guide treatments. Kidney biopsies are often performed by fine-needle aspiration of the kidney under radiology guidance, but in certain circumstances, a kidney biopsy can be done during an open abdominal operation.

Cardiac tamponade is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the heart muscle (myocardium) and the outer covering sac of the heart (pericardium). This prevents the heart ventricles from expanding fully. The excess pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from working properly. As a result, the body does not get enough blood.
Vasculitis affecting medium and small arteries, particularly at the point of bifurcation and branching. Segmental inflammation and fibrinoid necrosis of blood vessels lead to ischemia of the areas normally supplied by these arteries. Signs and symptoms depend on the location of the affected vessels and organs, but patients usually present with symptoms of multisystem disease, including fever, malaise, weight loss, hypertension, renal failure, myalgia, peripheral neuritis, and gastrointestinal bleeding; these may occur episodically. Unlike most types of vasculitis, PAN does not affect glomerular capillaries although other renal vessels are involved. The disease is associated with hepatitis B and C.
The ACR Quality of Care statement [147] recommends annual cardiovascular disease risk assessment; some researchers suggest that the cardiovascular risk for SLE is similar to that for diabetes mellitus. The 10-year coronary event rate is 13-15% in patients with active SLE, which is comparable to the 10-year event rate of 18.8% in patients with known coronary artery disease. [148] African American patients with SLE may be particularly vulnerable to premature cardiovascular disease and related death. [149]
In 2007, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) released recommendations for the treatment of SLE. [61] In patients with SLE without major organ manifestations, glucocorticoids and antimalarial agents may be beneficial. [61] NSAIDs may be used for short periods in patients at low risk for complications from these drugs. Consider immunosuppressive agents (eg, azathioprine, mycophenolate mofetil, methotrexate) in refractory cases or when steroid doses cannot be reduced to levels for long-term use. [106]
Steroid medications such as prednisone can also cause significant weight gain and redistribution of fat stores in the body. While taking steroids, your cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar (glucose) levels may increase. For these reasons, it is absolutely essential that you follow a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. You do not need to cut out all of the foods you love, but concentrate on eating whole grain breads and cereals and lean sources of protein such as chicken and fish. When you need a snack, look to raw vegetables—they are low in sugar and calories and provide the perfect food for “grazing.” Try to eat them without Ranch dressing or vegetable dip, because these items carry lots of fat and calories. If you need something to accompany your vegetables, try lighter dips like hummus. It is also important that you minimize alcohol intake ,because combining alcohol with corticosteroids, Tylenol, warfarin, and other lupus medications could be very harmful to your liver and stomach. For those taking methotrexate, alcohol is never allowed.
An antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is a sensitive screening tool used to detect autoimmune diseases, including lupus. Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) are antibodies that are directed against certain structures within a cell's nucleus (thus, antinuclear antibody). ANAs are found in particular patterns in people with autoimmune diseases (those in which a person's immune system works against his or her own body).
A skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength predisposing to an increased risk of fracture. Bone strength reflects the integration of two main features: bone density and bone quality. Bone density is expressed as grams of mineral per area or volume and in any given individual is determined by peak bone mass and amount of bone loss. Bone quality refers to architecture, turnover, damage accumulation (e.g., microfractures) and mineralization. A fracture occurs when a failure-inducing force (e.g., trauma) is applied to osteoporotic bone. Thus, osteoporosis is a significant risk factor for fracture, and a distinction between risk factors that affect bone metabolism and risk factors for fracture must be made.
There is no single diagnostic test for systemic lupus. The test you will hear most about is called the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test. This is not a specific test for lupus, however. In fact, a variety of laboratory tests are used to detect physical changes or conditions in your body that can occur with lupus. Each test result adds more information to the picture your doctor is forming of your illness.

Environment Researchers suspect environmental factors may increase the risk of developing lupus. For example, exposure to sun can cause a lupus rash and some systemic lupus activity, says Stacy Ardoin, MD, a rheumatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Other environmental factors that may contribute to lupus can include some drugs, viral infections, exhaustion, stress, and anything that can cause physical stress to the body (such as surgery, physical harm, injury, pregnancy, or giving birth).


The rate of SLE varies between countries, ethnicity, and sex, and changes over time.[95] In the United States, one estimate of the rate of SLE is 53 per 100,000;[95] other estimates range from 322,000 to over 1 million.[96] In Northern Europe the rate is about 40 per 100,000 people.[97] SLE occurs more frequently and with greater severity among those of non-European descent.[96] That rate has been found to be as high as 159 per 100,000 among those of Afro-Caribbean descent.[95] Childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus generally presents between the ages of 3 and 15 and is four times more common in girls.[98]
Some patients with mild lupus, with a little joint pain or rash can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, says Stuart D. Kaplan, MD, the chief of rheumatology at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York. These drugs can also help manage fever and inflammation of the heart and lining around the lungs. (2)

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Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

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