Photosensitive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) rashes typically occur on the face or extremities, which are sun-exposed regions. Although the interphalangeal spaces are affected, the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints are spared. Photo courtesy of Dr. Erik Stratman, Marshfield Clinic.
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).

Many people living with lupus are photosensitive or sensitive to the sun and fluorescent lights. It is recommended that all people living with lupus wear sunscreen. Sunscreens, greater than SPF 30, are vital in protecting patients from UVA and UVB rays which provoke skin rashes, lesions and other lupus disease activity. Patients should also avoid excess sun exposure by wearing sunscreen, wide-brim hats, avoid sunlight during peak hours of UV exposure (10:00 am - 2:00 pm) and wear tightly woven clothing.


Cognitive impairment is defined as any difficulty with normal thought functions or processes, such as thinking, learning, or remembering. Cognitive impairment can occur as a neurological symptom of lupus. However, cognitive impairment is a common occurrence that happens to everyone at some time, not just lupus patients, and it can affect one single thought process or many thought processes either temporarily or permanently.
You may need to see different kinds of doctors to treat the many symptoms of lupus. Once you’re diagnosed, your primary physician for lupus is usually a rheumatologist, who treats arthritis and other diseases that cause swelling in the joints. The rheumatologist may then send you to a clinical immunologist for treating immune system disorders; a nephrologist (kidney disease); a hematologist (blood disorders); a dermatologist (skin diseases); a neurologist (the nervous system); a cardiologist (heart and blood vessel problems), and an endocrinologist (glands and hormones).
Periodic follow-up and laboratory testing, including complete blood counts with differential, creatinine, and urinalyses, are imperative for detecting signs and symptoms of new organ-system involvement and for monitoring response and adverse reactions to therapies. At least quarterly visits are recommended in most cases. [151] Periodic complement levels and dsDNA titers may be used as adjuncts to clinical evaluation for detecting lupus flares.

In its simplest definition, the CBC is used to measure red and white blood cell count, the total amount of hemoglobin in the blood, hematocrit (the amount of blood composed of red blood cells), and mean corpuscular volume (the size of red blood cells). The CBC can also count additional blood cell types like neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, and platelets.


Ms. Everett began by explaining that there is no food that can cause lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, an illness that can affect many body systems. The foods that you eat, however, and the medications you take may have an effect on some of your symptoms. It is also important to understand that there is a link between lupus and osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Healthy nutrition can impact on those with these co-occurring diseases. Nutrition (e.g., in the case of osteoporosis, calcium intake) in turn may impact the symptoms and outcomes of these co-occurring illnesses. Here are some key issues and benefits that relate to proper nutrition and people living with lupus;
Mercury is toxic to our bodies and can be one piece of the puzzle for those with lupus and other chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, other autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, and cancer. Mercury overload is far more common than many people think. We’re exposed to mercury in our air and water, the fish we eat, amalgam fillings, cosmetics, and vaccines. I recommend heavy metal testing for all of my patients with autoimmunity, using a pre- and post-DMPS urine challenge test. I also recommend that anyone with mercury amalgam fillings find a biological dentist and have them removed.
“There are no foods that cause lupus and no foods that cure it, but eating a well-balanced diet may help combat some of the side effects of medications, as well as alleviate symptoms of the disease,” said Laura Gibofsky, MS, RD, CSP, CDN, a clinical nutritionist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, New York. First, the “Western diet,” consisting of an excess of fatty, salty, sugary foods, has been implicated in autoimmune diseases overall.2 Proper nutrition can also help improve the risk of comorbid diseases that commonly affect patients with SLE.
In patients with SLE, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is at least twice that in the general population, and over half of patients have 3 or more CVD risk factors.3,4 “Following a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and fatty fish and limiting saturated and trans fats can actually help reduce the risk of heart disease,” Gibofsky told Rheumatology Advisor.

Neuropsychiatric syndromes can result when SLE affects the central or peripheral nervous system. The American College of Rheumatology defines 19 neuropsychiatric syndromes in systemic lupus erythematosus.[30] The diagnosis of neuropsychiatric syndromes concurrent with SLE (now termed as NPSLE),[31] is one of the most difficult challenges in medicine, because it can involve so many different patterns of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for signs of infectious disease or stroke.[32]


There are assertions that race affects the rate of SLE. However, a 2010 review of studies which correlate race and SLE identified several sources of systematic and methodological error, indicating that the connection between race and SLE may be spurious.[100] For example, studies show that social support is a modulating factor which buffers against SLE-related damage and maintains physiological functionality.[100] Studies have not been conducted to determine whether people of different racial backgrounds receive differing levels of social support.[100] If there is a difference, this could act as a confounding variable in studies correlating race and SLE. Another caveat to note when examining studies about SLE is that symptoms are often self-reported. This process introduces additional sources of methodological error. Studies have shown that self-reported data is affected by more than just the patients experience with the disease- social support, the level of helplessness, and abnormal illness-related behaviors also factor into a self-assessment. Additionally, other factors like the degree of social support that a person receives, socioeconomic status, health insurance, and access to care can contribute to an individual’s disease progression.[100][101] Racial differences in lupus progression have not been found in studies that control for the socioeconomic status [SES] of participants.[100][102] Studies that control for the SES of its participants have found that non-white people have more abrupt disease onset compared to white people and that their disease progresses more quickly. Non-white patients often report more hematological, serosal, neurological, and renal symptoms. However, the severity of symptoms and mortality are both similar in white and non-white patients. Studies that report different rates of disease progression in late-stage SLE are most likely reflecting differences in socioeconomic status and the corresponding access to care.[100] The people who receive medical care have often accrued less disease-related damage and are less likely to be below the poverty line.[102] Additional studies have found that education, marital status, occupation, and income create a social context which contributes to disease progression.[100]
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]
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 Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of leading lupus experts. Following the first stage of the peer review process, the Scientific Advisory Board conducts a second level of detailed analysis of the projects that are submitted to our organization. The goal is to make a determination about which of these excellent projects should actually be recommended to our board of directors for funding.

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.
That being said, many physicians support the following of any nutritional plans that are designed to fight inflammation and support the immune system. According to the Department of Health and Human Services and American Heart Association, chronic inflammation might cause diseases such as atherosclerosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, food intolerances, diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart disease and in some cases even cancer. It also accelerates the aging process. Nutrition is a very powerful way to protect your cells from inflammation, thus the connection. Lupus, like any other auto-immune disease is different for each individual. While something may work for one person, it may not work for another. In general, it is a good idea for people with autoimmune disorders to discuss any major dietary changes with their doctor beforehand. We are writing this blog primarily in order to provide information and respond to the conversations occurring on our social media platforms with regards to these two diets. Let’s begin by discussing the definitions of each. Back to top

Thinning hair is often one of the first symptoms of lupus. Hair loss is the result of inflammation of the skin and scalp. Some people with lupus lose hair by the clump. More often, hair thins out slowly. Some people also have thinning of the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair. Lupus can cause hair to feel brittle, break easily, and look a bit ragged, earning it the name “lupus hair.”


Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Any third party offering or advertising on this website does not constitute an endorsement by Andrew Weil, M.D. or Healthy Lifestyle Brands.
For reasons that doctors still don't understand, the immune system sometimes becomes confused, attacking the body itself, a condition known as autoimmune disease. With lupus,the immune system can attack any organ of the body, including the kidneys and brain, although skin and joints are often most affected, he said. Like many autoimmune diseases, it's more common in women.
Useful medication for the disease was first found in 1894, when quinine was first reported as an effective therapy. Four years later, the use of salicylates in conjunction with quinine was noted to be of still greater benefit. This was the best available treatment until the middle of the twentieth century, when Hench discovered the efficacy of corticosteroids in the treatment of SLE.[121]

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]
Joints that are red, warm, tender, and swollen may signal lupus. Aching and stiffness alone aren’t enough; the joints have to be affected by arthritis and these other "cardinal signs of inflammation," says Michael Belmont, MD, director of the lupus clinic at Bellevue Hospital and medical director at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City.
Other tests for lupus depend on the symptoms patients are experiencing, says Kaplan. For example, chest X-rays and echocardiograms may be necessary to investigate fluid around the lungs and the heart. If doctors suspect nephritis is present, the patient may need a kidney biopsy. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to avoid complications, he adds.
If you are a young woman with lupus and wish to have a baby, carefully plan your pregnancy. With your doctor’s guidance, time your pregnancy for when your lupus activity is low. While pregnant, avoid medications that can harm your baby. These include cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, and mycophenolate mofetil. If you must take any of these medicines, or your disease is very active, use birth control. For more information, see Pregnancy and Rheumatic Disease.
“NHS dieticians seem to specialise in those struggling to lose (rather than gain) weight in my experience. On my initial consultation I was given a booklet with advice based on eating a full English breakfast, then snacks like doughnuts and pork pies. My sons would be thrilled to get medical advice to eat like that! The nutritional supplements they offer taste extremely artificial to me. I can only eat a little and very slowly, so get to ‘savour’ every sip of it. I’m trying protein shakes I buy myself, which taste better, but just one of those is very filling.”
Preventive measures are necessary to minimize the risks of steroid-induced osteoporosis and accelerated atherosclerotic disease. [146] The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Guidelines for the prevention of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis suggest the use of traditional measures (eg, calcium, vitamin D) and the consideration of prophylactic bisphosphonate therapy.
Blood—hematologic disorder—hemolytic anemia (low red blood cell count), leukopenia (white blood cell count<4000/µl), lymphopenia (<1500/µl), or low platelet count (<100000/µl) in the absence of offending drug; sensitivity = 59%; specificity = 89%.[75] Hypocomplementemia is also seen, due to either consumption of C3[76] and C4 by immune complex-induced inflammation or to congenitally complement deficiency, which may predispose to SLE.

Alternative treatments are those that are not part of standard treatment. At this time, no research shows that alternative medicine can treat lupus. Some alternative or complementary approaches may help you cope or reduce some of the stress associated with living with a chronic illness. You should talk to your doctor before trying any alternative treatments.

Whole foods, especially the kinds high in probiotics, antioxidants and prebiotic fiber, can lower inflammation by increasing “good bacteria” in the gut, which help with absorption and defending against toxins or bad bacteria. High-antioxidant foods also have anti-aging effects even for those without lupus or another immune disorder because they fight free radical damage that degenerates cells and tissues.
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]

People with lupus have a higher risk of CAD. This is partly because people with lupus have more CAD risk factors, which may include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The inflammation that accompanies lupus also increases the risk of developing CAD. People with lupus are often less active because of fatigue, joint problems, and/or muscle pain, and this also puts them at risk.
In a study published in 2015, patients with SLE were referred for nutrition counseling with a registered dietician (RD), and 41 of 71 referrals participated in the sessions.8 At the end of the 6-month period, the patients who received nutrition counseling were more likely to have lost weight; decreased their intake of foods high in fat, sodium, and calories; and increased their consumption of fruits, vegetables, fiber, and fish.
Neonatal lupus erythematosus (NLE) can develop in the babies of mothers with antibodies to SSA/Ro. Neonates with NLE can present with rash around 4-6 weeks of life, elevated liver function test results, thrombocytopenia around 1-2 weeks of life, neutropenia, and hydrocephalus. [141] NLE can also manifest as a congenital atrioventricular conduction block, [142] with as many as 1-5% of pregnancies in mothers with anti- SSA/SSB antibodies leading to heart block, rising to a 6-25% risk for subsequent pregnancies after one affected child is born. [143]
Antinuclear antibody (ANA) testing and anti-extractable nuclear antigen (anti-ENA) form the mainstay of serologic testing for SLE. Several techniques are used to detect ANAs. Clinically the most widely used method is indirect immunofluorescence (IF). The pattern of fluorescence suggests the type of antibody present in the people's serum. Direct immunofluorescence can detect deposits of immunoglobulins and complement proteins in the people's skin. When skin not exposed to the sun is tested, a positive direct IF (the so-called lupus band test) is an evidence of systemic lupus erythematosus.[70]
While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. There may have been an initial mishap — sprained back, serious infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain — arthritis, cancer, ear infection, but some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage. Many chronic pain conditions affect older adults. Common chronic pain complaints include headache, low back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself), psychogenic pain (pain not due to past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage inside or outside the nervous system). A person may have two or more co-existing chronic pain conditions. Such conditions can include chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and vulvodynia. It is not known whether these disorders share a common cause.
Soy products. Soy products are high in a type of estrogen called phytoestrogen, and estrogen is known to be a risk factor for lupus. In animal studies, researchers noted that a diet high in soy seemed to make lupus symptoms worse. Although there is no definitive evidence that soy products cause lupus symptoms, you should be cautious about including large amounts of soy in your diet.
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No overarching diet exists for people with lupus. However, lupus is a systemic disease, so maintaining good nutritional habits will help your body remain as healthy as possible. Generally, doctors recommend a diet composed of about 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 30% fat. However, since people with lupus often experience symptoms like weight loss or gain, inflammation, osteoporosis, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, certain specific nutritional concerns may also need to be taken into consideration. If you need help managing your weight or making healthy food choices, please speak with your doctor. S/he can give you more specific information and refer you to a registered dietitian if needed.
Opportunistic infections can develop, most often in patients receiving chronic immunosuppressive therapy. Another less-common complication is osteonecrosis, especially of the hips and knees after prolonged high-dose corticosteroid usage. More commonly, premature atherosclerotic disease and myocardial infarction are indolent complications of chronic inflammation and steroids.
Kaposi observed that lupus assumed two forms: the skin lesions (now known as discoid lupus) and a more aggravated form that affected not only the skin but also caused fever, arthritis, and other systemic disorders in people.[112] The latter also presented a rash confined to the face, appearing on the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose; he called this the "butterfly rash". Kaposi also observed those patients who developed the "butterfly rash" (or malar rash) often were afflicted with another disease such as tuberculosis, anemia, or chlorisis which often caused death.[110] Kaposi was one of the first people to recognize what is now termed systemic lupus erythematosus in his documentation of the remitting and relapsing nature of the disease and the relationship of skin and systemic manifestations during disease activity.[113]

The most serious health risks are cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and stroke. Specifically, people with lupus are at increased risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). In some people, inflammation can occur in the heart itself (myocarditis and endocarditis) or the membrane that surrounds it. Endocarditis can damage heart valves, which can result in heart murmurs. When the disease affects the kidneys, patients generally require intensive drug treatment to prevent permanent damage. Lupus also may attack the brain or central nervous system, which can cause seizures or stroke.


As someone who has healed Lupus, I often get asked about the importance of diet. Several years ago I was diagnosed with lupus. I could barely get out of bed or walk, had a hard time holding a glass of juice due to joint pain, suffered from all over body muscle aches, endured a constant low grade fever, and itched uncontrollably on my arms with skin rash. I new my life, as I new it, was over. I was petrified.


For arthritic symptoms, take a natural anti-inflammatory agent, containing ginger and turmeric. Get the right kind of regular exercise; swimming or water aerobics are best for those who have arthritis symptoms. Investigate traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, both of which often do well with autoimmune conditions. Definitely try one or more mind/body therapies, such as hypnosis or interactive guided imagery.
Fernández-Nebro A, Rúa-Figueroa Í, López-Longo FJ, Galindo-Izquierdo M, Calvo-Alén J, Olivé-Marqués A, Ordóñez-Cañizares C, Martín-Martínez MA, Blanco R, Melero-González R, Ibáñez-Rúan J, Bernal-Vidal JA, Tomero-Muriel E, Uriarte-Isacelaya E, Horcada-Rubio L, Freire-González M, Narváez J, Boteanu AL, Santos-Soler G, Andreu JL, Pego-Reigosa JM 2015, ‘Cardiovascular Events in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Nationwide Study in Spain From the RELESSER Registry’, EAS-SER (Systemic Diseases Study Group of Spanish Society of Rheumatology). Medicine (Baltimore), vol. 94, no. 29, viewed 22 September 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26200625
In studies conducted so far, African American patients and patients of African heritage did not appear to respond significantly to belimumab. An additional study of this patient population is planned to evaluate belimumab further in this subgroup of lupus patients. However, this difference in response to a treatment may be another indicator of the various ways that the disease affects different patients.

If you have lupus, you may experience dry mouth. Your eyes may feel gritty and dry, too. That’s because some people with lupus develop Sjogren’s disease, another autoimmune disorder. Sjogren’s causes the glands responsible for tears and saliva to malfunction, and lymphocytes can accumulate in the glands. In some cases, women with lupus and Sjogren’s may also experience dryness of the vagina and skin.
Some people with lupus experience occasional heartburn, acid reflux, or other gastrointestinal problems. Mild symptoms can be treated with OTC antacids. If you have frequent bouts of acid reflux or heartburn, try cutting down on the size of your meals, and avoid beverages containing caffeine. Also, don’t lie down right after a meal. If symptoms continue, see your doctor to rule out other conditions.
If you are a young woman with lupus and wish to have a baby, carefully plan your pregnancy. With your doctor’s guidance, time your pregnancy for when your lupus activity is low. While pregnant, avoid medications that can harm your baby. These include cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, and mycophenolate mofetil. If you must take any of these medicines, or your disease is very active, use birth control. For more information, see Pregnancy and Rheumatic Disease.

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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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