The body’s tolerance of the antigens present on its own cells, i.e., autoantigens or self-antigens. It is theorized that autoreactive T lymphocytes are destroyed in the thymus by negative selection or in peripheral blood. Autoreactive T cells that escape destruction in the thymus may become tolerant because they are exposed to thousands of autoantigens as they circulate in the blood.

We acknowledge as a limitation that certainty of the evidence was not as high as desirable for most recommendations and probably biased by few randomised clinical trials. Although regional information was published on several topics1 4 10 11 23 24 31–49 we recognise that these guidelines should be updated as research-based changes in our understanding of SLE emerge. Regardless, the publication of these guidelines must be followed by health system engagement and implementation by specialists, major steps towards improvement of lupus treatment in Latin America and low/middle-income countries.


Outcomes research seeks to understand the end results of particular health care practices and interventions. End results include effects that people experience and care about, such as change in the ability to function. In particular, for individuals with chronic conditions—where cure is not always possible—end results include quality of life as well as mortality.
  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
In some cases, your doctor may want to do a biopsy of the tissue of any organs that seem to be involved in your symptoms. This is usually your skin or kidney but could be another organ. The tissue can then be tested to see the amount of inflammation there is and how much damage your organ has sustained. Other tests can show if you have autoimmune antibodies and whether they're related to lupus or something else.
Neonatal lupus Technically neonatal lupus is not a form of lupus. The condition is the result of autoantibodies passing from a pregnant woman with lupus (or related condition) through the placenta and to the baby developing in the womb, causing mostly temporary symptoms, explains Virginia Pascual, MD, the director of the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. Some infants are born with symptoms, such as skin rash, liver problems, or white blood cell counts. But those symptoms disappear within a few months and leave no lasting effects.

The ACR recommends ANA testing in patients who have two or more unexplained signs or symptoms listed in Table 2.2,20,21 [Reference2—Evidence level C, consensus/expert guidelines] Because of the high rate of false positive ANA titers, testing for systemic lupus erythematosus with an ANA titer or other autoantibody test is not indicated in patients with isolated myalgias or arthralgias in the absence of these specific clinical signs.45 Under most circumstances, a persistently negative ANA titer (less than 1:40) can be assumed to rule out systemic lupus erythematosus.41
Prognosis is typically worse for men and children than for women; however, if symptoms are present after age 60, the disease tends to run a more benign course. Early mortality, within 5 years, is due to organ failure or overwhelming infections, both of which can be altered by early diagnosis and treatment. The mortality risk is fivefold when compared to the normal population in the late stages, which can be attributed to cardiovascular disease from accelerated atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death for people with SLE.[83] To reduce the potential for cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure and high cholesterol should be prevented or treated aggressively. Steroids should be used at the lowest dose for the shortest possible period, and other drugs that can reduce symptoms should be used whenever possible.[83]
Many people with lupus will have some form of a rash, says Roberto Caricchio, MD, the interim section chief of rheumatology at Temple University Hospital and director of the Temple Lupus Clinic in Philadelphia. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, as many as two-thirds of people with lupus experience a skin rash, and estimates suggest that between 40 and 70 percent of people with lupus will notice that their symptoms get worse in the sun or some types of artificial light. (2)
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.
With variants known as discoid lupus, subacute cutaneous lupus, and systemic lupus erythematosus, lupus is one of several disorders of the immune system considered “autoimmune” in nature. These diseases occur when the immune system malfunctions and turns its infection-defense capabilities against the body, producing antibodies against healthy cells and tissues. These antibodies promote chronic inflammation and can damage organs and tissues. In lupus, these antibodies are known as antinuclear antibodies (ANA) because they target parts of the cell’s nucleus. Experts don’t yet fully understand all of the factors and triggers that cause inflammation and tissue damage in lupus, and research is ongoing.
The ACR recommends ANA testing in patients who have two or more unexplained signs or symptoms listed in Table 2.2,20,21 [Reference2—Evidence level C, consensus/expert guidelines] Because of the high rate of false positive ANA titers, testing for systemic lupus erythematosus with an ANA titer or other autoantibody test is not indicated in patients with isolated myalgias or arthralgias in the absence of these specific clinical signs.45 Under most circumstances, a persistently negative ANA titer (less than 1:40) can be assumed to rule out systemic lupus erythematosus.41
Any of a group of immunoglobulin autoantibodies that react with phospholipids, which are one of the primary components of the cell membrane (the other components are glycolipids and steroids). These antibodies are found in patients with a variety of connective tissue and infectious disorders, including systemic lupus erythematosus, the antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, syphilis, and malaria. They cause abnormal blood clotting, thrombocytopenia; and in women of childbearing age, repeated miscarriages. The anticardiolipin antibodies are one type of antiphospholipid antibody.
This gene encodes a member of the interferon regulatory factor (IRF) family, a group of transcription factors with diverse roles, including virus-mediated activation of interferon, and modulation of cell growth, differentiation, apoptosis, and immune system activity. Members of the IRF family are characterized by a conserved N-terminal DNA-binding domain containing tryptophan (W) repeats. Alternative promoter use and alternative splicing result in multiple transcript variants, and a 30-nt indel polymorphism (SNP rs60344245) can result in loss of a 10-aa segment.

Levels of stress-related illnesses are on the rise, and stress, both emotional and physical, has been shown to trigger and intensify autoimmune disorders. Stress is your body’s response to a threat–a wound, injury, or infection. Acute stress revs up your immune system to help you deal with an immediate crisis, and then calms it back down once the threat is removed. On the other hand, chronic stress (the kind we face in this day and age) leads to long-term inflammation and actually suppresses your immune system. This can trigger or worsen autoimmune conditions, and can lead to the reactivation of latent viruses linked to lupus, perpetuating a vicious cycle.
The following drugs are commonly used to treat the inflammation and symptoms of lupus. Since lupus manifests in different ways in different people, treatment regimens differ from patient to patient. In addition, one patient may experience several different treatment regimens during her/his lifetime. It is important that you understand the medications you are taking and the risks, benefits, and restrictions associated with them. Please remember to take your medications exactly as directed by your physician and to address any questions or concerns upon your next visit.

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.

There have also been case reports of patients with severe refractory SLE in which off-label use of rituximab showed benefits with tolerable safety profiles. [120, 121, 122] For example, in a retrospective study of 115 patients with severe or refractory SLE, 40% of patients had a complete response and 27% had a partial response, as measured by BILAG scores recorded 6 months after the first rituximab treatment. [123]


SLE is undoubtedly a potentially serious illness with involvement of numerous organ systems. However, it is important to recognize that most people with SLE lead full, active, and healthy lives. Periodic increases in disease activity (flares) can usually be managed by varying medications. Since ultraviolet light can precipitate and worsen flares, people with systemic lupus should avoid sun exposure. Sunscreens and clothing covering the extremities can be helpful. Abruptly stopping medications, especially corticosteroids, can also cause flares and should be avoided. People with SLE are at increased risk of infections as SLE-related complications, especially if they are taking corticosteroids or immunosuppressive medications. Therefore, any unexpected fever should be reported to medical professionals and evaluated.
On my first (and last) visit to the rheumatologist I asked what I could do to support my health or to avoid a worsening my lupus symptoms. She casually responded "Come back when you're worse and I'll put you on steroids". Straining to get some kind of supportive information I mustered up a question about diet and if there were foods I should eat or avoid. Her response was, "continue to eat whatever you want, it won't make a difference".
Of note, problems faced by Latin American countries are shared by several developing nations. Therefore, it is expected that these guidelines will also be very useful for them. Furthermore, due to ever increasing globalisation and the increase of migratory movements of people from countries with more susceptible SLE groups in terms of frequency and disease severity both in terms of race/ethnicity (Mestizos, Asians, Africans) and low SES to countries with better life opportunities, we consider that these guidelines may be used by physicians anywhere in the world, even in developed countries, where such individuals may migrate to and seek care for their lupus.
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.
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.
Rheumatologists may not discuss the topic of nutrition with their patients, which is “mainly due to the complex nature of the disease, and doctors often do not have time to discuss diet when there are so many other topics to cover,” Gibofsky explained. “Many rheumatologists will admit that diet is not their area of expertise and will instead refer their patient[s] to meet with a registered dietitian (RD) who can better help with these questions.”
Lupus is often missed or misdiagnosed because the symptoms are vague and can match those of other conditions. Generally, a doctor will review your medical history and your family history, and look for signs of systemic inflammation. Because lupus can involve the internal and external organs, a doctor will rely on observation as well as laboratory testing in order to make a lupus diagnosis. There is no one test for lupus–generally, many different criteria will need to come together, and it can take years to reach a diagnosis.

Similarly, a phase III trial of 819 SLE patients who were positive for either antinuclear antibody or anti–double-stranded DNA at baseline screening found that IV belimumab at 10 mg/kg plus standard therapy resulted in a significantly greater SRI score (43.2%) than placebo (33.5%) at 1 year (those who received belimumab 1 mg/kg plus standard therapy had a 40.6% response rate). [118] Overall, the addition of belimumab to standard therapy reduced SLE disease activity and severe flares, and the medication was well tolerated. [118]

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.


A member of a group of enzymes that can break down proteins, such as collagen, that are normally found in the spaces between cells in tissues (i.e., extracellular matrix proteins). Because these enzymes need zinc or calcium atoms to work properly, they are called metalloproteinases. Matrix metalloproteinases are involved in wound healing, angiogenesis, and tumor cell metastasis.
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).
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]
Flare-ups of lupus can cause acute inflammation and damage to various body tissues and can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. Some of the most common symptoms are painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, kidney problems and extreme fatigue. A characteristic red skin rash – called a “malar” or “butterfly” rash because it roughly mimics the insect’s shape – may appear across the nose and cheeks. Rashes may also occur on the face and ears, upper arms, shoulders, chest, and hands. Because many lupus patients are sensitive to sunlight, skin rashes often develop or worsen after sun exposure.
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)

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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