The aim of this review is to provide an up-to-date overview of treatment approaches for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), highlighting the multiplicity and heterogeneity of clinical symptoms that underlie therapeutic decisions. Discussion will focus on the spectrum of currently available therapies, their mechanisms and associated side-effects. Finally, recent developments with biologic treatments including rituximab, epratuzumab, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, and belimumab, will be discussed.


Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation, creates a wide range of signs and symptoms. Systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of the condition, can potentially involve any major organ system of the body, says Neil Kramer, MD, co-medical director at the Institute for Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey. “Therefore, the first signs and symptoms vary from patient to patient.”
Limitations of the test: Although almost all people with lupus have the antibody, a positive result doesn't necessarily indicate lupus. Positive results are often seen with some other diseases and in a smaller percentage of people without lupus or other autoimmune disorders. So a positive ANA by itself is not enough for a lupus diagnosis. Doctors must consider the result of this test along with other criteria.
“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.

Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
The male hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), produced in the adrenals, seems to help and may reduce the need for prednisone. Although DHEA is available over-the-counter, don’t take it without medical supervision. It presents an increased risk of heart attack and breast and prostate cancer so it is vital that a physician monitor anyone taking it for lupus. Furthermore, over-the-counter brands of DHEA may not be as reliable as prescription forms.
Disease that results when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Examples include multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Autoimmune diseases can affect almost any part of the body, including the heart, brain, nerves, muscles, skin, eyes, joints, lungs, kidneys, glands, the digestive tract, and blood vessels. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain, and swelling.
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).
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
The CBC is among the most common blood tests performed in the clinical laboratory and aids in the diagnosis of anemia and erythrocytosis; bleeding and the repletion of blood cells by transfusion, thrombocytopenia and thrombocytosis; and infections and leukemias. Blood is obtained for the test from venipuncture or aspiration from an indwelling vascular access or port. It is taken to the laboratory in a tube that contains the anticoagulant ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).
Anitphospholipid Antibodies (APLs): Phospholipids are antibodies that are present in approximately one out of every two people with lupus.  A positive test can help confirm diagnosis as well as help identify women with lupus who have certain risks (like blood clots and miscarriage) that would require preventative treatment and monitoring. Note that the presence of phospholipids also occurs in people without lupus and therefore, there presence alone is not enough for a lupus diagnosis.
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).
If your doctor suspects you have lupus, he or she will focus on your RBC and WBC counts. Low RBC counts are frequently seen in autoimmune diseases like lupus. However, low RBC counts can also indicate blood loss, bone marrow failure, kidney disease, hemolysis (RBC destruction), leukemia, malnutrition, and more. Low WBC counts can point toward lupus as well as bone marrow failure and liver and spleen disease.
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.
While the genetics of SLE are not very well understood, there is growing evidence for the involvement of specific genes in this complex autoimmune disease. Part of the complexity of this disease is due to the effects of both environment and genetics factors that may contribute to its development.[49] Further compounding our understanding of the etiology of the disease is the involvement of several organ systems.[50] Genetic studies of the rates of disease in families supports the genetic basis of this disease with a heritability of >66%.[51] Identical (monozygotic) twins were found to share susceptibility to the disease at >35% rate compared to fraternal (dizygotic) twins and other full siblings who only showed a 2–5% concordance in shared inheritance.[51]

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.
The authors reviewed the influence of nutritional factors on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and discussed an alternative treatment option. The autoimmunity and inflammatory process of SLE are related to the presence of dyslipidemia, obesity, systemic arterial hypertension, and metabolic syndrome, which should be properly considered to decrease cardiovascular risk. A diet with moderate protein and energy content, but rich in vitamins, minerals (especially antioxidants), and mono/polyunsaturated fatty acids can promote a beneficial protective effect against tissue damage and suppression of inflammatory activity, in addition to helping the treatment of those comorbidities. Diet therapy is a promising approach and some recommendations may offer a better quality of life to patients with SLE.
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.
These are low in nutrients and may also contribute to poor digestion, weight gain, inflammation and other symptoms. Most also contain gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye and most flour-containing products. Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is common in those with autoimmune disorders because gluten can be difficult for many people to digest properly, increasing leaky gut syndrome and triggering symptom flare-ups. (6)

Deal with one problem at a time, Keep finding ways to enjoy the outdoors but stay away from the sun. Florescent lights also seem to cause flareups in skin from my wife’s experience. A good book I read called “The Sun Is My Enemy” covers an experience that follows what you describe, and it helps to understand the symptoms and life long effects than need addressing but don’t determine quality or length of life.
Certain foods, including garlic and alfalfa sprouts, should be avoided by people with lupus. [For a more complete list of items to be avoided, please see the article “Things to Avoided” in the Lupus 101 section.] Recently controversy has also arisen over whether aspartame induces lupus. However, scientists have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that aspartame causes lupus.
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.
Inflammation of the heart muscle, usually in the U.S. as a consequence of infections (viruses, esp. coxsackie virus, and occasionally as a consequence of bacterial, protozoan or fungal infections); immunological-rheumatological conditions (e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus, ulcerative colitis, hypersensitivity reactions, or transplant rejection); exposure to chemicals or toxins (e.g., cocaine, doxorubicin, methamphetamine); nutritional or metabolic abnormalities (e.g., thiamine deficiency or hypophosphatemia); or radiation. Myocarditis also is occasionally found in pregnancy and with advanced age. The myocardium is infiltrated by leukocytyes, lymphocytes, and macrophages, leading to inflammation, necrosis of muscle cells, and fibrosis. Inflammatory damage to heart muscle fibers may resolve spontaneously or may cause progressive deterioration of the heart with pericarditis, arrhythmias, chronic dilated cardiomyopathy, and heart failure.

Micrograph of a section of human skin prepared for direct immunofluorescence using an anti-IgG antibody. The skin is from a person with systemic lupus erythematosus and shows IgG deposits at two different places. The first is a bandlike deposit along the epidermal basement membrane ("lupus band test" is positive); the second is within the nuclei of the epidermal cells (antinuclear antibodies are present).


“It’s always difficult for children and parents to live with the idea that lupus is chronic,” says Pascual. That means the child has many more years worth of living with the condition than if he or she were diagnosed later in life. And because this disease is lifelong and may involve complications such as nephritis, doctors need to manage it aggressively.

Common initial and chronic complaints include fever, malaise, joint pains, muscle pains, and fatigue. Because these symptoms are so often seen in association with other diseases, these signs and symptoms are not part of the diagnostic criteria for SLE. When occurring in conjunction with other signs and symptoms (see below), however, they are considered suggestive.[11]
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“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.”
The panel concluded that both MMF plus high-dose GCs (prednisone 1–2 mg/kg/day, maximum 60 mg/day) and CYC plus high-dose GCs are associated with significant benefits in comparison to GCs alone. No significant differences between these two alternatives were noted. The panel pointed that differential pharmacokinetic effects of MMF in cLN may exist, which could require dosing increase.30 Risk of reduction of ovarian reserve and sperm abnormalities should be considered in patients with cLN treated with CYC.
Drug-Induced Lupus Erythematosus, like SLE, can affect many parts of the body. However, Drug-Induced Lupus is caused by an overreaction to certain medications. Studies have shown that removal of the medication may stop disease activity. Drugs most commonly connected with drug-induced lupus are those used to treat chronic conditions, such as seizures, high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis.
ANA = antinuclear antibody; CNS = central nervous system; ds-DNA = double-stranded DNA; ELISA = enzyme-linked immunoassay; ENA = extractable nuclear antigen; Ig = immunoglobulin; p-ANCA = perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody; RBCs = red blood cells; RNP = ribonucleic protein; SLE = systemic lupus erythematosus; Sm = Smith; SSA = Sjögren syndrome A; SSB = Sjögren syndrome B.
Although guidelines for SLE treatment do exist and there is scarce evidence to support specific therapies for Latin American patients with lupus,16–21 this regional effort has considered the impact of racial/ethnic background1 10 22–28 and SES3 9 on lupus outcomes and treatment response.25 26 Other medication variables such as cost and availability were also taken into account since they affect adherence and are relevant in decision-making.27 28 GLADEL and the Pan-American League of Associations of Rheumatology have joined efforts to produce these guidelines,29 which are presented by organ systems, although manifestations usually occur in more than one. Nevertheless, treatment is usually tailored to the more severe manifestation(s), which usually benefits the less severe.
Lupus is diagnosed when a person has several features of the disease (including symptoms, findings on examination, and blood test abnormalities). The American College of Rheumatology has devised criteria to assist doctors in making the correct diagnosis of lupus. A person should have at least four of the following 11 criteria, either at the same time or one after the other, to be classified as having lupus. These criteria include:

If you have difficulty with certain tasks in the kitchen due to stiffness, pain or weakness, there is a wide range of special equipment available that can make things easier. You can find details about many of these products for homes and kitchens HERE. You may wish to discuss the possibility of being referred to your rheumatology clinic’s occupational therapy team so that you can have your individual needs assessed.
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.
Patients of African-American or African descent did not show significant responses to belimumab in phase III post-hoc analysis, but those studies were not powered to assess for this effect; in a phase II trial, blacks had a greater treatment response. These results indicate that the benefits of belimumab in SLE patients remain inconclusive and that further investigation is needed. Patients with severe active lupus nephritis or CNS lupus or patients previously treated with other biologics or cyclophosphamide have been excluded from participation in early trials.
The immune system must balance between being sensitive enough to protect against infection, and become sensitized to attack the body's own proteins (autoimmunity). During an immune reaction to a foreign stimulus, such as bacteria, virus, or allergen, immune cells that would normally be deactivated due to their affinity for self-tissues can be abnormally activated by signaling sequences of antigen-presenting cells. Thus triggers may include viruses, bacteria, allergens (IgE and other hypersensitivity), and can be aggravated by environmental stimulants such as ultraviolet light and certain drug reactions. These stimuli begin a reaction that leads to destruction of other cells in the body and exposure of their DNA, histones, and other proteins, particularly parts of the cell nucleus. The body's sensitized B-lymphocyte cells will now produce antibodies against these nuclear-related proteins. These antibodies clump into antibody-protein complexes which stick to surfaces and damage blood vessels in critical areas of the body, such as the glomeruli of the kidney; these antibody attacks are the cause of SLE. Researchers are now identifying the individual genes, the proteins they produce, and their role in the immune system. Each protein is a link on the autoimmune chain, and researchers are trying to find drugs to break each of those links.[10][56][57]
Systemic lupus erythematosus (S.L.E.), commonly called lupus, is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can affect virtually any organ of the body. In lupus, the body's immune system, which normally functions to protect against foreign invaders, becomes hyperactive, forming antibodies that attack normal tissues and organs, including the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, and blood. Lupus is characterized by periods of illness, called flares, and periods of wellness, or remission.
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.

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.
Avoid calcium supplements, however, which Johns Hopkins researchers have found to potentially increase the risk of heart damage and arterial plaque buildup. “Due to the risk of accelerated atherosclerosis in lupus, we no longer recommend calcium supplementation and encourage a diet rich in calcium instead,” noted George Stojan, MD, a rheumatologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.
Immunosuppressive Medications Immunosuppressives are medications that help suppress the immune system. Many were originally used in patients who received organ transplants to help prevent their bodies from rejecting the transplanted organ. However, these drugs are now also used for the treatment of certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

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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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