Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic, recurrent, potentially fatal multisystem inflammatory disorder that can be difficultto diagnose.1,2 The disease has no single diagnostic marker; instead, it is identified through a combination of clinical and laboratory criteria.3 Accurate diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus is important because treatment can reduce morbidity4–11 and mortality,12 particularly from lupus nephritis. This article reviews evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus by primary care physicians.
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 occasional glass of red wine or beer isn’t restricted. However, alcohol can interact with some of the medicines you take to control your condition. Drinking while taking NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn), for example, could increase your risk of stomach bleeding or ulcers. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) and may increase the potential liver side-effects of methotrexate.
Decorin is a protein coded for by the DCN gene. This protein is a component of the extracellular matrix, which is the intricate lattice of proteins and other molecules that forms in the spaces between cells. Decorin is found in the extracellular matrix of a variety of connective tissues, including skin, tendon, bone, and cartilage. Connective tissues support the body’s joints and organs. Decorin is involved in the organization of proteins called collagens. Collagens strengthen and support connective tissues throughout the body. Collagens also play an important role in the cornea, which is the clear outer covering of the eye. Bundles of collagen called fibrils must be strictly organized for the cornea to be transparent. Decorin ensures that these collagen fibrils are uniformly sized and regularly spaced.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are an essential arm of the innate immune response to bacteria, viruses and fungi and link recognition of distinct features of these microbes to the induction of pro-inflammatory signaling pathways. These receptors are able to respond to broad classes of pathogens because each TLR recognizes specific conserved microbial features.
The gene is the basic physical unit of inheritance. Genes are passed from parents to offspring and contain the information needed to specify traits. Genes are arranged, one after another, on structures called chromosomes. A chromosome contains a single, long DNA molecule, only a portion of which corresponds to a single gene. Humans have approximately 20,000 genes arranged on their chromosomes.
The first mechanism may arise genetically. Research indicates SLE may have a genetic link. SLE does run in families, but no single causal gene has been identified. Instead, multiple genes appear to influence a person's chance of developing lupus when triggered by environmental factors. HLA class I, class II, and class III genes are associated with SLE, but only classes I and II contribute independently to increased risk of SLE. Other genes which contain risk variants for SLE are IRF5, PTPN22, STAT4, CDKN1A, ITGAM, BLK, TNFSF4 and BANK1. Some of the susceptibility genes may be population specific.
More serious organ involvement with inflammation occurs in the brain, liver, and kidneys. White blood cells can be decreased in SLE (referred to as leukopenia or leucopenia). Also, low blood-clotting factors called platelets (thrombocytopenia) can be caused by lupus. Leukopenia can increase the risk of infection, and thrombocytopenia can increase the risk of bleeding. Low red blood cell counts (hemolytic anemia) can occur.
Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is an antimalarial medication found to be particularly effective for SLE people with fatigue, skin involvement, and joint disease. Consistently taking Plaquenil can prevent flare-ups of lupus. Side effects are uncommon but include diarrhea, upset stomach, and eye-pigment changes. Eye-pigment changes are rare but require monitoring by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) during treatment with Plaquenil. Researchers have found that Plaquenil significantly decreased the frequency of abnormal blood clots in people with systemic lupus. Moreover, the effect seemed independent of immune suppression, implying that Plaquenil can directly act to prevent the blood clots. This fascinating study highlights an important reason for people and doctors to consider Plaquenil for long-term use, especially for those SLE people who are at some risk for blood clots in veins and arteries, such as those with phospholipid antibodies (cardiolipin antibodies, lupus anticoagulant, and false-positive venereal disease research laboratory test). This means not only that Plaquenil reduces the chance for re-flares of SLE, but it can also be beneficial in thinning the blood to prevent abnormal excessive blood clotting. Plaquenil is commonly used in combination with other treatments for lupus.
I recommend having your MTHFR genes tested, as this genetic mutation can impact how you detoxify mercury and other heavy metals. There are multiple options for heavy metal testing, however I’ve found the DMPS “challenge” test to be the gold standard. To assess whether someone is being exposed to mycotoxins, I use the test from Real Time Lab. If either heavy metals or mycotoxins are an issue for you, work on minimizing your exposure to these toxins, and be sure to support your detox pathways while you work to flush them out.
However, the mainstays of treatment are corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone), hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), and dexamethasone (Decadron, Hexadrol). These drugs heavily suppress inflammation but can cause short-term side effects including swelling, increased appetite, and weight gain and long-term side effects including stretch marks on the skin, weakened or damaged bones, high blood pressure, damage to the arteries, diabetes, infections, and cataracts.
Consuming foods in their natural, whole form limits your exposure to synthetic additives, toxins or pesticides. These chemicals are very commonly found in packaged products and non-organic foods (even many veggies and fruit!). Because those with lupus already have weakened immune systems, reducing exposure to synthetic hormones, chemicals, medications and heavy metals is usually crucial for recovery.
An increase in the size of an organ, structure, or the body due to growth rather than tumor formation. This term is generally restricted to an increase in size or bulk that results not from an increase in the number of cells but from an increase in a cellular component, e.g., proteins. It applies to any increase in size as a result of functional activity.
For people with joint or chest pain or fever, drugs that decrease inflammation, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are often used. Although some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are available over the counter, a doctor’s prescription is necessary for others. NSAIDs may be used alone or in combination with other types of drugs to control pain, swelling, and fever. Even though some NSAIDs may be purchased without a prescription, it is important that they be taken under a doctor’s direction.
People with SLE have intense polyclonal B-cell activation, with a population shift towards immature B cells. Memory B cells with increased CD27+/IgD—are less susceptible to immunosuppression. CD27-/IgD- memory B cells are associated with increased disease activity and renal lupus. T cells, which regulate B-cell responses and infiltrate target tissues, have defects in signaling, adhesion, co-stimulation, gene transcription, and alternative splicing. The cytokines B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLys), interleukin 6, interleukin 17, interleukin 18, type I interferons, and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) are involved in the inflammatory process and are potential therapeutic targets.
Prednisone is used alone or with other medications to treat the symptoms of low corticosteroid levels (lack of certain substances that are usually produced by the body and are needed for normal body functioning). Prednisone is also used to treat other conditions in patients with normal corticosteroid levels. These conditions include lupus, certain types of arthritis; severe allergic reactions; multiple sclerosis (a disease in which the nerves do not function properly); and certain conditions that affect the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys blood, thyroid, stomach, and intestines. Prednisone is also sometimes used to treat the symptoms of certain types of cancer.
Steroid medications such as prednisone can also cause significant weight gain and redistribution of fat stores in the body. While taking steroids, your cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar (glucose) levels may increase. For these reasons, it is absolutely essential that you follow a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. You do not need to cut out all of the foods you love, but concentrate on eating whole grain breads and cereals and lean sources of protein such as chicken and fish. When you need a snack, look to raw vegetables—they are low in sugar and calories and provide the perfect food for “grazing.” Try to eat them without Ranch dressing or vegetable dip, because these items carry lots of fat and calories. If you need something to accompany your vegetables, try lighter dips like hummus. It is also important that you minimize alcohol intake ,because combining alcohol with corticosteroids, Tylenol, warfarin, and other lupus medications could be very harmful to your liver and stomach. For those taking methotrexate, alcohol is never allowed.
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.
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. Further compounding our understanding of the etiology of the disease is the involvement of several organ systems. Genetic studies of the rates of disease in families supports the genetic basis of this disease with a heritability of >66%. 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.
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.
In addition to hormonal mechanisms, specific genetic influences found on the X chromosome may also contribute to the development of SLE. Studies indicate that the X chromosome can determine the levels of sex hormones. A study has shown an association between Klinefelter syndrome and SLE. XXY males with SLE have an abnormal X–Y translocation resulting in the partial triplication of the PAR1 gene region.
Your gut is somewhat permeable to allow very small molecules (micronutrients) pass through the intestinal wall. It’s how you absorb your food. Many factors can damage your gut, including gluten, infections, medications and stress. This damage allows much larger particles such as toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles to “leak through” your gut and enter your bloodstream, triggering an immune response. We know from the research of Dr. Alessio Fasano that leaky gut is a necessary precursor to autoimmunity, meaning if you’re dealing with lupus, you also have a leaky gut. Not to mention, your gut is where nearly 80% of your immune system lives. So in order to overcome lupus, you must first repair your gut.
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.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “People with lupus should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that benefit overall health and can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and digestive disorders. Plant-based diets also support a healthy weight because they are naturally low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables are particularly high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body by destroying harmful substances that damage cells and tissue and cause heart disease and cancer.” Take a look at our blog, Lupus: the Diet Dilemma for some great tips. While these diets, or eating plans, may have some merit, individual foods should not be the focus. Pay attention to your overall pattern of nutrition. Reducing inflammation is not just about what you eat. Patients should also know that these diets are never meant to be a replacement for the lupus treatments they may already be taking under the close supervision of a medical professional. Until more research is in on the effectiveness of these diets, be practical by getting enough sleep and exercise, and try to maintain a healthy weight. Back to top
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.
Limitations of the test: Like CRP, the ESR is not specific to lupus. Because there are many causes for a positive result, including infection, the test is not diagnostic for lupus. Nor can it distinguish a lupus flare from an infection. Also, the level doesn't directly correlate with lupus disease activity. So it isn't necessarily useful for monitoring disease activity.
In patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies is common; depending on the assay, these antibodies have been reported in up to 30-50% of SLE patients.  Therefore, it is important to evaluate these patients for risk factors for thrombosis, such as use of estrogen-containing drugs, being a smoker, immobility, previous surgery, and the presence of severe infection or sepsis.  The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) has noted that low-dose aspirin in individuals with SLE and antiphospholipid antibodies is potentially useful for primary prevention of thrombosis and pregnancy loss. 
Lupus is a serious disease that can affect anyone. It is most often diagnosed in young women, between the ages of 15 and 44. While the cause is not known, lupus is an autoimmune disease – in which your immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake – that can potentially damage many parts of the body. There is no known cure for lupus, though effective treatments are available.
“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.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disorder that causes extreme fatigue. This fatigue is not the kind of tired feeling that goes away after you rest. Instead, it lasts a long time and limits your ability to do ordinary daily activities. The main symptom of CFS is severe fatigue that lasts for 6 months or more. You also have at least four of these other symptoms:
In the United States, systemic lupus erythematosus is reported to be more common in women, particularly black women, than in white men.14,16 One U.S. retrospective study16 of medical records found that the disease is diagnosed 23 times more often in black women than in white men. The prevalence of the disease is also higher in Hispanic and Asian Americans.16 In addition, a familial predisposition to systemic lupus erythematosus has been identified.17-19
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).
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue resulting in inflammation, particularly of the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain. It develops most commonly in women between the ages of 15-45, and occurs more often in African-American, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians. Men can get lupus too. Lupus is not infectious or cancerous. People with lupus may have many different symptoms affecting various parts of the body. Some of the most common symptoms are extreme fatigue, painful or swollen joints (arthritis), unexplained fevers, skin rashes and kidney problems. Lupus is characterized by “flares” or periods of illness and remission. Warning signs of a flare can be increased fatigue, pain, rash, fever, abdominal discomfort, headache or dizziness. Learning how to recognize these signs can help people maintain better health and reduce or ward off a flare. Currently, there is no cure for lupus but it can be managed effectively with drugs, and most people with lupus lead an active, healthy life.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterized by acute and chronic inflammation of various tissues of the body. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex system within the body that is designed to fight infectious agents, such as bacteria and other foreign microbes. One of the ways that the immune system fights infections is by producing antibodies that bind to the microbes. People with lupus produce abnormal antibodies in their blood that target tissues within their own body rather than foreign infectious agents. These antibodies are referred to as autoantibodies.
Immunoglobulins are formed by light and heavy (depending on molecular weight) chains of polypeptides made up of about 100 amino acids. These chains determine the structure of antigen-binding sites and, therefore, the specificity of the antibody to one antigen. The five types of immunoglobulins (IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, IgM) account for approximately 30% of all plasma proteins. Antibodies are one of the three classes of globulins (plasma proteins) in the blood that contribute to maintaining colloidal oncotic pressure.
Vitamin tablets and supplements are not an alternative to eating healthily. It is always wise to talk with your GP or consultant about what supplements you wish to take as they can have a serious effect on some medications you may be on, such as warfarin. They may also suggest that you supplement your diet if they find that there is a deficiency. If you eat a good balance, particularly of fruit and vegetables, this should give you sufficient vitamins. It is relatively easy to overdose on the fat-soluble vitamins and this can be dangerous to your health (particularly vitamin A) as well as wasting your money.
Anti-dsDNA test:This is the protein directed against the double-stranded DNA, the material making up the genetic code. This test is very specific for lupus, and can be used to determine a lupus diagnosis. One in every two people with lupus has a positive anti-dsDNA test. The presence of this anti-dsDNA can indicate a higher risk of lupus nephritis, kidney inflammation that can occur with lupus. This test can confirm the need to closely monitor the kidneys. Only half the people with lupus have a positive test, so a positive or negative test does not mean you have lupus.
Lupus disease, especially when active, could lead to accelerated atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries) which can develop in young women and could also lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. Thus, it is vital that patients with lupus, in addition to controlling their disease, exercise and lower other risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
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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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