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.

Scientists have suspected for years that infections from bacteria, viruses, and other toxins were likely to blame for the development of conditions like lupus. And while they have not been able to identify one single culprit, they have found strong correlations with a number of bacteria and viruses. For example, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been shown to trigger lupus in some individuals.4


No single finding qualifies an individual as having SLE. Instead, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has devised certain classification criteria, and four or more of these criteria must be present for a classification of lupus. [The term “classification” is not synonymous with “diagnosis.” “Classification” means that reasonable certainty exists for the diagnosis of lupus for research purposes.] Although, these criteria are currently being updated, they are believed to be about 90% effective. The ACR criteria include malar rash; discoid rash; photosensitivity (development of a rash after sun exposure); oral or nasal ulcers; arthritis of multiple joints; serositis: (inflammation of the lining around the lungs or heart); kidney disease indicated by protein or casts in the urine; neurological disorders such as seizures and psychosis; and blood disorders such as hemolytic anemia, leukopenia, and lymphopenia. Other signs that are common but not included in the classification criteria are hair loss or breaking, especially around the forehead, and Raynaud’s Phenomenon, a two- or three-color change of the fingertips upon cold exposure.


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.
And it’s important to point out that people who are initially diagnosed with systemic lupus (or SLE) can also get lupus rashes. One of the common rashes that occurs in people with systemic lupus is malar rash. It’s alternatively called a butterfly rash, and it spreads across the bridge of the nose and cheeks and is telltale sign of the disease because its appearance is so distinctive, Caricchio says. A malar rash can be flat or raised. While it usually isn’t painful, it can itch and burn. (3) And the rash can show up on other parts of the body, including the arms, legs, and torso.
At Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), research programs study the cells which regulate lupus to further understand disease pathogenesis - or the development of the disease – translating these findings into therapeutic targets. In addition, clinical trials are ongoing to evaluate novel therapies in this disease. BRI has a Clinical Research Registry people can join to learn about clinical trials that may be appropriate for them.
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).
Sometimes, changes in blood counts (low red cell count, or anemia), may cause fatigue, serious infections (low white cell count), or easy bruising or bleeding (low platelet count). Many patients do not have symptoms from low blood counts, however, so it is important for people with lupus to have periodic blood tests in order to detect any problems.

Chronic diseases are noncommunicable illnesses that are prolonged in duration, do not resolve spontaneously, and are rarely cured completely. Although chronic diseases are more common among older adults, they affect people of all ages and are now recognized as a leading health concern of the nation. Growing evidence indicates that a comprehensive approach to prevention can save tremendous costs and needless suffering.
Painless passage of blood or protein in the urine may often be the only presenting sign of kidney involvement. Acute or chronic renal impairment may develop with lupus nephritis, leading to acute or end-stage kidney failure. Because of early recognition and management of SLE, end-stage renal failure occurs in less than 5%[27][28] of cases; except in the black population, where the risk is many times higher.
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. FDA also has responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors.
Many women with lupus ask "it safe for me to get pregnant?" or "can I have a healthy pregnancy?" Pregnancy is possible in most patients with lupus, but complications are frequent. Anyone with lupus should be considered to have a high risk for health complications during pregnancy. When a woman with lupus becomes pregnant or is planning to become pregnant, she should get a referral for appropriate, specialized care. Lupus patients who are positive for aPL are at high risk of miscarriage, while patients with anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB antibodies are at risk for delivering a child with neonatal lupus.

“I tend to suffer from fatigue. About a year ago I made some changes to my diet; I cut out as many processed foods as I could and now start the day with porridge with blue/red fruits (i.e. blackberries, blueberries or cranberries). I now go to bed and get up at the same times every day and I started walking everyday too. I feel much better and sleep better too.”

Other drugs used to treat lupus include the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which modulates the immune system, and belimumab, a targeted drug that is a biologic (meaning it’s made from natural sources). Some chemotherapy drugs and anti-rejection drugs may be used, too, to treat patients with lupus nephritis or other organ problems, says Caricchio.
The panel recommends HCQ plus LMWH plus LDA over HCQ plus LDA or adding GCs or intravenous Ig for pregnant patients with SLE with antiphospholipid antibodies and recurrent pregnancy loss (strong recommendation based on moderate certainty of the evidence (LMWH plus LDA vs other alternatives) and very low certainty of the evidence (GCs and intravenous Ig vs other alternatives), since high certainty of harms related to GCs (increased premature delivery) and intravenous Ig (costs increase, burden related to drug administration) exists).

“I have had severe lupus for over twenty years and find that diet doesn’t really change any symptoms. I eat meat, fish, dairy, gluten and sugar too…all in moderation. I eat lots of fruit and veg and avoid processed foods. The only thing I avoid is alcohol. I guess everyone is different but a well-balanced, healthy diet with exercise (when I’m up to it) is my formula.”


Research has demonstrated evidence that a key enzyme's failure to dispose of dying cells may contribute the development of systemic lupus erythematosus. The enzyme, DNase1, normally eliminates what is called "garbage DNA" and other cellular debris by chopping them into tiny fragments for easier disposal. Researchers turned off the DNase1 gene in mice. The mice appeared healthy at birth, but after six to eight months, the majority of mice without DNase1 showed signs of systemic lupus erythematosus. Thus, a genetic mutation in a gene that could disrupt the body's cellular waste disposal may be involved in the initiation of systemic lupus erythematosus.
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.
However, this type of “specialized” treatment ignores the reality that all of your bodily systems are interconnected. Functional medicine, on the other hand, looks at the health of the entire body based on the fact that the health of one organ affects the function of the others. Rather than simply treating the symptoms, functional medicine aims to get at the underlying root causes of disease.
Lupus antibodies can be transferred from the mother to the fetus and result in lupus illness in the newborn ("neonatal lupus"). This includes the development of low red cell counts (hemolytic anemia) and/or white blood cell counts (leucopenia) and platelet counts (thrombocytopenia) and skin rash. Problems can also develop in the electrical system of the baby's heart (congenital heart block). Occasionally, a pacemaker for the baby's heart is needed in this setting. Neonatal lupus and congenital heart block are more common in newborns of mothers with SLE who carry specific antibodies referred to as anti-Ro (or anti-SSA) and anti-La (or anti-SSB). (It is helpful for the newborn baby's doctor to be made aware if the mother is known to carry these antibodies, even prior to delivery. The risk of heart block is 2%; the risk of neonatal lupus is 5%.) Neonatal lupus usually clears after 6 months of age, as the mother's antibodies are slowly metabolized by the baby.
The panel suggests SOC alone over adding other immunosuppressant (IS) in adult patients with SLE with MSK manifestations (weak recommendation based on low certainty of the evidence). It suggests also adding either MTX, LFN, belimumab or ABT to those failing to respond to SOC (weak recommendation based on low to moderate certainty of the evidence). Cost and availability may favour MTX (table 1).

Alfalfa seeds and sprouts, green beans, peanuts, soybeans, and snow peas contain a substance that has been shown to trigger lupus flare-ups in some patients (although not all). Negative reactions caused by these foods experienced by lupus patients can include antinuclear antibodies in the blood, muscle pains, fatigue, abnormal immune system function and kidney abnormality. These symptoms are believed to be caused by the amino acid L-canavanine. (7)

In healthy people, eosinophils comprise approximately 1 to 6 percent of white blood cells. The body may produce more of these cells in response to parasitic and fungal infections. Certain allergic diseases, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, cancers, and bone marrow diseases also may result in elevated eosinophil counts. Many people with eosinophilic disorders have high numbers of eosinophils in their blood or tissues over a long period of time. Sometimes, the presence of excess eosinophils in tissue, called “eosinophilic inflammation,” can result in tissue damage.​​
Corticosteroids and immune suppressants: Patients with serious or life-threatening problems such as kidney inflammation, lung or heart involvement, and central nervous system symptoms need more “aggressive” (stronger) treatment. This may include high-dose corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone and others) and drugs that suppress the immune system. Immune suppressants include azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). Recently mycophenolate mofetil has been used to treat severe kidney disease in lupus – referred to as lupus nephritis.
Ms. Everett then discussed some important general nutrition guidelines of which individuals with lupus should be aware. Some key guidelines include diets low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium; low in refined sugars like soda and concentrated juices; and high in fiber. It is important to be aware of high protein diets which can often stress the kidneys. Most importantly, Ms. Everett stresses the importance of keeping a well-balanced diet.
Individual test results can also vary from one visit to another, which can be very confusing.  A doctor will take into consideration a combination of factors as well as the test results when diagnosing lupus, and because of this, we encourage you inquire about the ANA and DNA testing, which doctors are often reluctant to give.  These two tests together can create a clearer picture of whether the diagnosis could be lupus.  Again, we must remind you that just because you test negative today, it does not mean that you won’t test positive tomorrow.

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.


Collagen is the major insoluble fibrous protein in the extracellular matrix and in connective tissue. In fact, it is the single most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80 – 90 percent of the collagen in the body consists of types I, II, and III. These collagen molecules pack together to form long thin fibrils of similar structure. Type IV, in contrast, forms a two-dimensional reticulum; several other types associate with fibril-type collagens, linking them to each other or to other matrix components. At one time it was thought that all collagens were secreted by fibroblasts in connective tissue, but we now know that numerous epithelial cells make certain types of collagens. The various collagens and the structures they form all serve the same purpose, to help tissues withstand stretching.
Most all studies (such as the paleo and anti-inflammatory diets), are fairly in line with their recommendations. Funny enough, these dietary recommendations are for the general populous as well! So it’s not just people with lupus who should be re-aligning dietary thinking.  However, as lupus is an inflammatory disease, it only makes sense that eating an anti-inflammatory diet, one rich in vitamins, iron, antioxidants and fish, also including the following suggestions, would be prudent.
(1) SOC; (2) SOC plus methotrexate (MTX); (3) SOC plus leflunomide (LFN); (4) SOC plus belimumab; (5) SOC plus abatacept (ABT); (6) other options: azathioprine (AZA), mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), cyclosporine A (CsA) or rituximab (RTX) (online supplementary tables S2.1.1, S2.1.4, S2.1.6, S2.1.7, S2.2.11, S2.1.11, S2.1.12, S2.1.14, S2.1.15, S2.1.17, S2.2.1, S2.2.2, S2.2.4, S3.1.1, S3.1.3–S3.1.6, S3.2.1, S3.2.2, S12.2–S12.5, S12.8–S12.10).
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate:  This is a blood test that is used to determine the rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a tube in one hour’s time.  If the rate is faster than normal, it may be an indication of a systemic disease, like lupus.  It is important to note that this sedimentation rate, or rate of settling, does not specifically indicate lupus, but can be elevated if other inflammatory conditions are present like cancer or an infection.
One of several different tests used to evaluate the condition of the respiratory system. Measures of expiratory flow and lung volumes and capacities are obtained. The forced vital capacity is one of the more important pulmonary function tests; it provides a measure of the amount of air that can be maximally exhaled after a maximum inspiration and the time required for that expiration. Pulmonary function tests can also determine the diffusion ability of the alveolar-capillary membrane.
Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things. The human body is composed of trillions of cells. They provide structure for the body, take in nutrients from food, convert those nutrients into energy, and carry out specialized functions. Cells also contain the body’s hereditary material and can make copies of themselves. When someone has lupus, the immune system can’t tell the difference between the body’s healthy cells and bacteria and viruses, so the antibodies attack the body’s healthy cells.

There is no cure for SLE.[1] Treatments may include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, hydroxychloroquine, and methotrexate.[1] Alternative medicine has not been shown to affect the disease.[1] Life expectancy is lower among people with SLE.[5] SLE significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease with this being the most common cause of death.[4] With modern treatment about 80% of those affected survive more than 15 years.[3] Women with lupus have pregnancies that are higher risk but are mostly successful.[1]


Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used preventively to reduce the incidence of flares, the progress of the disease, and the need for steroid use; when flares occur, they are treated with corticosteroids. DMARDs commonly in use are antimalarials such as hydroxychloroquine and immunosuppressants (e.g. methotrexate and azathioprine). Hydroxychloroquine is an FDA-approved antimalarial used for constitutional, cutaneous, and articular manifestations. Hydroxychloroquine has relatively few side effects, and there is evidence that it improves survival among people who have SLE.[83] Cyclophosphamide is used for severe glomerulonephritis or other organ-damaging complications. Mycophenolic acid is also used for treatment of lupus nephritis, but it is not FDA-approved for this indication, and FDA is investigating reports that it may be associated with birth defects when used by pregnant women.[86]

Discoid Lupus is the most common form of Cutaneous Lupus. People living with Discoid Lupus complain of a red, raised and scaly lesion on the face, scalp or parts of the body. Manifestations on the face form across the cheeks, nose and ears. Over time, these lesions can produce scarring and skin discoloration (darkly colored and/or lightly colored areas). Typically, these lesions occur on areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent lights. If lesions appear in the scalp or involve the hair follicles, areas of hair loss may develop which could be permanent if the hair follicle is completely destroyed. They are often not itchy or painful. 


The severity of lupus varies from mild to life threatening. Kidney problems and neurologic complications are more dangerous than the rashes, arthritis or other symptoms. After many years of having lupus, patients may develop hypertension (high blood pressure), accelerated atherosclerosis (plaque and fat build-up in the arteries), heart and lung diseases, kidney failure or osteoporosis. With proper treatment, the majority of people diagnosed with lupus have a normal life expectancy, but many will experience disabilities. Each patient will likely have his or her own specific pattern of symptoms and flares, but the disease can change over time.
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.
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.
Take a good multivitamin/multimineral supplement with recommended dosages of antioxidants. To help address inflammation, increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating sardines or other oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel) three times a week or supplementing with fish oil. Freshly ground flaxseeds (grind two tablespoons a day and sprinkle over cereals or salads) can also help decrease inflammation. Other dietary strategies include avoiding polyunsaturated vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, etc.), margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products made with partially hydrogenated oils. Eat a low-protein, plant-based diet that excludes all products made from cows’ milk, be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (with the exception of alfalfa sprouts, which contain the amino acid L-canavanine that can worsen autoimmunity.)
A diet high in folic acid, such as found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, and fortified breads and cereals, or a folic acid supplement is important if you are taking methotrexate (Rheumatrex). For nausea caused by medications, eat small frequent meals and foods that are easy to digest. Try dry cereals, breads, and crackers. Also avoid greasy, spicy, and acidic foods.
The word Paleo means ancient or older. The Paleo diet, as its name states, is a diet based around focusing on foods that have been eaten by humans for thousands of years during their evolution. Foods that existed before the introduction of agriculture. These foods are fresh and free of any added preservatives, mainly consisting of vegetables and meats. Paleo advocates claim that this way of eating can improve all aspects of your health, including your weight, reduction of disease activity and prevention of some chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The Paleo diet provides that we should be eating what heals and supports our immune system. This diet includes diet the following diet recommendations as shown in the above graphic:

To help doctors diagnose lupus, this list of 11 common criteria, or measures, was developed by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). ACR is a professional association of rheumatologists. Rheumatologists are the doctors who specialize in treating diseases of the joints and muscles, like lupus. If you have at least four of the criteria on the list, either at the present time or at some time in the past, there is a strong chance that you have lupus.


Lupus can cause problems with the blood, too, including anemia, or low red blood cell count. Anemia can cause symptoms such as weakness and fatigue. (14) Thrombocytopenia is another blood disorder that may develop, resulting in lower platelet counts. (Platelets are the blood cells that help the blood clot.) Symptoms of thrombocytopenia can include bruising easily, nosebleeds, and petechiae, when the blood appears as red pinpoints under the skin. (15)
We encourage you to reach out to friends, family, and join support groups to share your feelings and fears.  Also, remember to be your own best advocate in your journey with lupus, take great notes, and bring a support person with you to each visit to help remind you of the doctor’s advice and information. We are always here for you, please join our online community and share your story or ask us any questions you may have! Back to top

We conducted a systematic evidence-based review of the published literature on systemic lupus erythematosus. After searching several evidence-based databases (Table 1), we reviewed the MEDLINE database using the PubMed search engine. Search terms included “lupus not discoid not review not case” and “lupus and treatment and mortality,” with the following limits: 1996 to present, abstract available, human, and English language. One author reviewed qualifying studies for relevance and method.

The cause of lupus remains unknown, but there is solid evidence that genetics, epigenetics (changes in chromosomes that affect gene activity), environmental factors, viruses and infections play a role. Further study of these variables is expected to improve our understanding of causes, which should lead to improved diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, and treatment.


As required by Section 801 of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act, in general, a description of any agreement between the sponsor of a clinical study and the principal investigator (PI) that does not allow the PI to discuss the results of the study or to publish the study results in a scientific or academic journal after the trial is completed. (This does not apply if the PI is an employee of the sponsor.)
The GRADE approach was followed in the process (http://www.gradeworkinggroup.org) answering the clinical questions voted most relevant by the panel. The description of the methodology followed to develop these guidelines has already been published.29 All authors listed in this manuscript have participated in planning, drafting, reviewing, final approval and are accountable for all aspects of the manuscript. No ethical approval was required by institutions. We present the final recommendations and their supporting information. Comments from three patients with SLE were also considered.

People with lupus should know that most rashes, and sometimes other symptoms, are aggravated by sun exposure, so you’ll want to avoid it or use sun protection. It’s critical to talk to your doctor about skin rashes and lesions that you observe, as many are treated differently, and some can be signs that the disease is progressing or changing. You may need other treatments, too.


The GRADE approach was followed in the process (http://www.gradeworkinggroup.org) answering the clinical questions voted most relevant by the panel. The description of the methodology followed to develop these guidelines has already been published.29 All authors listed in this manuscript have participated in planning, drafting, reviewing, final approval and are accountable for all aspects of the manuscript. No ethical approval was required by institutions. We present the final recommendations and their supporting information. Comments from three patients with SLE were also considered.

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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