Lupus is an incredibly complex autoimmune disease and diagnosing lupus can take a lot of time and many doctor visits. Patients will often get diagnosed with other “overlap” diseases such as rheumadoid arthritis (RA), Sjogren’s Syndrome, scleroderma, fibromyalgia or Raynaud’s Phenomenon even before a diagnosis of lupus is made. This can be incredibly frustrating for you as well as your doctors. Understanding the process of getting a lupus diagnosis is one of the most common questions we get here as well as a main topic in the discussions on our Facebook page and our other social media platforms. The goal of this blog is to give a clear understanding of the diagnosis process and provide the tools needed to go back to your doctor (or a new doctor) armed with the information you need.
For each of the subheadings listed below, the panel considered interventions based on experience, availability, affordability and a stepwise therapeutic approach of the different alternatives. Standard of care (SOC) was defined as the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and, if clinically indicated, low-dose glucocorticoids (GC) (prednisone ≤7.5 mg or equivalent for the shortest time).24 Chloroquine remains an alternative for some of the Latin American countries where HCQ is not available and careful monitoring of eye side effect is recommended. Overarching principles are shown in box 1. Tables summarising the evidence that was considered in the process are shown in online supplementary tables in https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.bg8452h.
Lupus band test. Microphotograph of a histologic section of human skin prepared for direct immunofluorescence using an anti-IgG antibody. The skin is from a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus and shows IgG deposit at 2 different places: the first is a band-like deposit along the epidermal basement membrane ("lupus band test" is positive); the second is within the nuclei of the epidermal cells (anti-nuclear antibodies).
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).
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.

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]


In one study41 that used patients with connective tissue diseases as the control group, the revised ACR diagnostic criteria for systemic lupus erythematosus were found to have an overall sensitivity of 96 percent and a specificity of 96 percent. Other studies21,32,43 have reported sensitivities ranging from 78 to 96 percent and specificities ranging from 89 to 100 percent. The ACR criteria may be less accurate in patients with mild disease.21

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a complex and heterogeneous autoimmune disease, represents a significant challenge for both diagnosis and treatment. Patients with SLE in Latin America face special problems that should be considered when therapeutic guidelines are developed. The objective of the study is to develop clinical practice guidelines for Latin American patients with lupus. Two independent teams (rheumatologists with experience in lupus management and methodologists) had an initial meeting in Panama City, Panama, in April 2016. They selected a list of questions for the clinical problems most commonly seen in Latin American patients with SLE. These were addressed with the best available evidence and summarised in a standardised format following the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. All preliminary findings were discussed in a second face-to-face meeting in Washington, DC, in November 2016. As a result, nine organ/system sections are presented with the main findings; an ‘overarching’ treatment approach was added. Special emphasis was made on regional implementation issues. Best pharmacologic options were examined for musculoskeletal, mucocutaneous, kidney, cardiac, pulmonary, neuropsychiatric, haematological manifestations and the antiphospholipid syndrome. The roles of main therapeutic options (ie, glucocorticoids, antimalarials, immunosuppressant agents, therapeutic plasma exchange, belimumab, rituximab, abatacept, low-dose aspirin and anticoagulants) were summarised in each section. In all cases, benefits and harms, certainty of the evidence, values and preferences, feasibility, acceptability and equity issues were considered to produce a recommendation with special focus on ethnic and socioeconomic aspects. Guidelines for Latin American patients with lupus have been developed and could be used in similar settings.
The complement system is the name of a group of blood proteins that help fight infection. Complement levels, as the name implies, measure the amount and/or activity of those proteins. Working within the immune system, the proteins also play a role in the development of inflammation. In some forms of lupus, complement proteins are consumed (used up) by the autoimmune response. A decrease in complement levels can point toward lupus nephritis, lupus nephritis, kidney inflammation. Normalization of complement levels can indicate a favorable response to treatment.

Inflammation associated with lupus can cause stiffness, swelling, pain, and warmth of the joints, most commonly in the fingers, hands, elbows, ankles, and toes. (8) Most people with lupus will experience joint inflammation at some point, says Caricchio. For many people, joint pain is one of the first symptoms of the disease that they’ll notice and report.


Vasculitis, antiphospholipid antibodies, and renal failure are commonly found in patients with lupus; these conditions greatly increase the risk of developing pulmonary emboli. The diagnosis in a patient with shortness of breath, hemoptysis, and pleuritic chest pain is commonly made with ventilation-perfusion scans or computed tomography (CT) angiography. The CT angiogram demonstrates a filling defect in the left anterior segmental artery (arrow).

Dozens of medications have been reported to trigger SLE. However, more than 90% of cases of "drug-induced lupus" occurs as a side effect of one of the following six drugs: hydralazine (Apresoline) is used for high blood pressure; quinidine (Quinidine Gluconate, Quinidine Sulfate) and procainamide (Pronestyl; Procan-SR; Procanbid) are used for abnormal heart rhythms; phenytoin (Dilantin) is used for epilepsy; isoniazid (Nydrazid, Laniazid) is used for tuberculosis; and d-penicillamine (used for rheumatoid arthritis
The panel recommends SOC (GCs and antimalarials (AM)) in addition to an IS (CYC in high or low doses, MMF or TAC) over GCs alone, for induction in patients with SLE-related kidney disease (strong recommendation based on moderate certainty of the evidence). Although more African-American descendants and Hispanic patients responded to MMF than CYC (25), limited access to MMF and TAC in several Latin American countries, due primarily to cost issues, makes CYC the best alternative for induction (high or low dose) in these regions (table 2).
Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, the vast communications network that transmits information from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to every other part of the body. Peripheral nerves also send sensory information back to the brain and spinal cord, such as a message that the feet are cold or a finger is burned. Damage to the peripheral nervous system interferes with these vital connections. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral neuropathy distorts and sometimes interrupts messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
Nutrients that are important for managing lupus, such as fiber and antioxidants, seem to have the most beneficial effects when consumed from real food rather than from supplements.  What type of foods are included in a lupus diet? These include healthy fats, plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, and probiotic foods. Considering the fact that lupus can increase your risk for other chronic health problems (for example, women with lupus have a five- to tenfold higher risk for heart disease than the general population!), a nutrient-rich lupus diet can have far-reaching protective effects.
Contraception and family planning are important considerations given the risks of disease flare with exogenous estrogens and pregnancy and with the teratogenic risks of some SLE drugs. Estrogen therapies have typically been avoided to prevent disease flares; progesterone-only contraception is more often considered. [144] However, studies have suggested that oral estrogen-containing contraceptives may not be associated with disease flares or thrombosis risk in patients with mild lupus without antiphospholipid antibodies. [52, 145]
A large body of research shows that a healthy, unprocessed diet is very important for managing autoimmune disorder symptoms, including those caused by lupus, because it helps control inflammation stemming from poor gut health. The majority of your immune system is actually located in inside your gastrointestinal tract, which is also known as the microbiome, and researchers believe that up to 90 percent of all diseases can be traced in some way back to dysfunction of the gut/microbiome. That’s why if you have lupus, focusing on a lupus diet treatment plan is a major step natural lupus treatment.
Heart and Lungs. Heart and lung involvement often is caused by inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericardium) and lungs (pleura). When these structures become inflamed, patients may develop chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and accumulation of fluid around the lungs (pleuritis or pleurisy) and heart (pericarditis). The heart valves and the lung itself can also be affected by lupus, resulting in shortness of breath.
While the onset and persistence of SLE can show disparities between genders, socioeconomic status also plays a major role. Women with SLE and of lower socioeconomic status have been shown to have higher depression scores, higher body mass index, and more restricted access to medical care than women of higher socioeconomic statuses with the illness. People with SLE had more self-reported anxiety and depression scores if they were from a lower socioeconomic status.[99]
"Keeping my weight under control has been a battle. I have tried diets. I know that being overweight increases joint stress and stress on my heart, both of which can be affected by lupus," says LaPlant. Some of the medications that people take for lupus can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Prednisone, one of the most common medications used to treat lupus flares, can increase your appetite and lead to significant weight gain. Regular, low-impact exercise can help offset weight gain and also improve your health in general.
Testing for antibody to double-stranded DNA antigen (anti-dsDNA) and antibody to Sm nuclear antigen (anti-Sm) may be helpful in patients who have a positive ANA test but do not meet full criteria for the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. AntidsDNA and anti-Sm, particularly in high titers, have high specificity for systemic lupus erythematosus, although their sensitivity is low. Therefore, a positive result helps to establish the diagnosis of the disease, but a negative result does not rule it out.46 The CAP guideline recommends against testing for other autoantibodies in ANA-positive patients, because there is little evidence that these tests are of benefit.46
If this disorder is suspected in people, brain scans are usually required for early detection. These scans can show localized areas of the brain where blood supply has not been adequate. The treatment plan for these people requires anticoagulation. Often, low-dose aspirin is prescribed for this purpose, although for cases involving thrombosis anticoagulants such as warfarin are used.[91]

An inflammatory response (inflammation) occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause. The damaged cells release chemicals including histamine, bradykinin, and prostaglandins. These chemicals cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. This helps isolate the foreign substance from further contact with body tissues.


The monoclonal antibody belimumab (Benlysta), a B-lymphocyte stimulator–specific inhibitor, has been found to reduce disease activity and possibly decrease the number of severe flares and steroid use in patients with SLE when used in combination with standard therapy. [114] In March, 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of belimumab in combination with standard therapies (including steroids, nonbiologic DMARDS [eg, hydroxychloroquine, azathioprine, methotrexate]) to treat active autoantibody-positive SLE. [115]  In July 2017, a subcutaneous (SC) formulation was approved that allows patients to self-administer a once-weekly dose. [162]
No diet-based treatment of SLE has been proven effective. Patients with SLE should be reminded that activity may need to be modified as tolerated. Specifically, stress and physical illness may precipitate SLE flares. Additionally, persons with SLE should wear sunscreen and protective clothing or avoid sun exposure to limit photosensitive rash or disease flares.
In lupus as the attack goes on, all the branches of the immune system join the fight. This leads to significant and intense inflammation. The cause of Lupus is unknown, as well as what drives its diverse presentation. We know that multiple factors are required, including: the “right” genetic makeup, environmental exposures, and organ specific characteristics. People with lupus may also have an impaired process for clearing old and damaged cells from the body, which in turn provides continuous stimuli to the immune system and leads to abnormal immune response.
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]
Aseptic meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. Unlike other forms of meningitis, aseptic meningitis is not caused by infection and cannot be spread person-to-person. Instead it can be caused by lupus, cancers, certain drugs, head injury, and brain surgery, among others. Meningitis is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (sensitivity to light), and altered mental status (confusion).
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 goal of the informed consent process is to protect participants. It begins when a potential participant first asks for information about a study and continues throughout the study until the study ends. The researcher and potential participant have discussions that include answering the participant’s questions about the research. All the important information about the study must also be given to the potential participant in a written document that is clear and easy to understand. This informed consent document is reviewed and approved by the human subjects review board for a study before it is given to potential participants. Generally, a person must sign an informed consent document to enroll in a study.
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Kidney inflammation in SLE (lupus nephritis) can cause leakage of protein into the urine, fluid retention, high blood pressure, and even kidney failure. This can lead to further fatigue and swelling (edema) of the legs and feet. With kidney failure, machines are needed to cleanse the blood of accumulated waste products in a process called dialysis.
Vasculitis, antiphospholipid antibodies, and renal failure are commonly found in patients with lupus; these conditions greatly increase the risk of developing pulmonary emboli. The diagnosis in a patient with shortness of breath, hemoptysis, and pleuritic chest pain is commonly made with ventilation-perfusion scans or computed tomography (CT) angiography. The CT angiogram demonstrates a filling defect in the left anterior segmental artery (arrow).

Acute Cutaneous Lupus results in flat red patches on the cheeks and nose called a malar or butterfly rash that looks quite like sunburn. These patches may also appear on the arms, legs, trunk and any other area that is commonly exposed to the sun. Patients with Acute Cutaneous Lupus can also manifest oral ulcers, hives and temporary hair loss. Acute Cutaneous Lupus is more common in people living with SLE.


Nitrogen in the blood in the form of urea, the metabolic product of the breakdown of amino acids used for energy production. The normal concentration is about 8 to 18 mg/dL. The level of urea in the blood provides a rough estimate of kidney function. Blood urea nitrogen levels may be increased in the presence of dehydration, decreased renal function, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, or treatment with drugs such as steroids or tetracyclines.
A common neurological disorder people with SLE have is headache,[33] although the existence of a specific lupus headache and the optimal approach to headache in SLE cases remains controversial.[34] Other common neuropsychiatric manifestations of SLE include cognitive dysfunction, mood disorder, cerebrovascular disease,[33] seizures, polyneuropathy,[33] anxiety disorder, psychosis, depression, and in some extreme cases, personality disorders.[35] Steroid psychosis can also occur as a result of treating the disease.[31] It can rarely present with intracranial hypertension syndrome, characterized by an elevated intracranial pressure, papilledema, and headache with occasional abducens nerve paresis, absence of a space-occupying lesion or ventricular enlargement, and normal cerebrospinal fluid chemical and hematological constituents.[36]
People with SLE need more rest during periods of active disease. Researchers have reported that poor sleep quality was a significant factor in developing fatigue in people with SLE. These reports emphasize the importance for people and physicians to address sleep quality and the effect of underlying depression, lack of exercise, and self-care coping strategies on overall health. During these periods, carefully prescribed exercise is still important to maintain muscle tone and range of motion in the joints.
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]
Because some treatments may cause harmful side effects, it is important to report any new symptoms to the doctor promptly. It is also important not to stop or change treatments without talking to the doctor first. In addition to medications for lupus itself, in many cases it may be necessary to take additional medications to treat problems related to lupus such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or infection.
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.
Do you think you may have lupus? If you have shown several of the signs for lupus, you and your physician may now take the next step in determining if it is lupus or another auto-immune disease.  In order to make such a diagnosis, the individual must first show clinical evidence of a multi-symptom disease (i.e., the individual has shown abnormalities in several different organ systems).

A group of people who review, approve, and monitor the clinical study protocol. Their role is to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects participating in a study. The group typically includes people with varying backgrounds, including a community member, to make sure that research activities conducted by an organization are completely and adequately reviewed. Also known as an institutional review board (IRB) or ethics committee.


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.

While no single test can determine whether a person has lupus, several laboratory tests may help the doctor confirm a diagnosis, or at least rule out other ailments. The most useful tests identify certain autoantibodies that are often present in the blood of lupus patients. A biopsy of the skin or kidneys may also be ordered if those organs are affected. The doctor will look at the entire picture – medical history, symptoms, and test results – to determine if you have lupus.  Other laboratory tests are used to monitor the progress of the disease once it has been diagnosed.


The doctor who caused you distress and probably confusion about your situation sounds bipolar. He probably experienced the episode when walking through the door. The basic human instinct is fight or flight when entering a new environment and he seems to have been confused by it. Also maybe he had a patient or personal experience that affected him deeply, this has nothing to do with you or your situation. My wife went through the same unnecessary experience more than once.


Vasculitis, antiphospholipid antibodies, and renal failure are commonly found in patients with lupus; these conditions greatly increase the risk of developing pulmonary emboli. The diagnosis in a patient with shortness of breath, hemoptysis, and pleuritic chest pain is commonly made with ventilation-perfusion scans or computed tomography (CT) angiography. The CT angiogram demonstrates a filling defect in the left anterior segmental artery (arrow).
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]

Lupus is not necessarily life threatening when treated appropriately. Up to 90 percent of patients will have a normal life expectancy if they are followed closely by their doctor and receive proper treatment. (4,5) Lupus can, however, increase mortality rates because patients have a higher risk of heart disease, infection or complications such as inflammation of the kidney, or nephritis, says Francis Luk, MD, an assistant professor of rheumatology and immunology, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.


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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