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.
***Please note that this article is written for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Do not delay seeking or disregard medical advice based on information here. Always seek the advice of your local family physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to existing treatment. It is also advisable to consult a medical professional before making any changes to diet or starting alternative remedies, which may interact with other medications.***
Note: Ultimately, in patients with kidney disease from systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus nephritis), a kidney biopsy may be necessary to both define the cause of the kidney disease as being lupus-related as well as to determine the stage of the kidney disease in order to optimally guide treatments. Kidney biopsies are often performed by fine-needle aspiration of the kidney under radiology guidance, but in certain circumstances, a kidney biopsy can be done during an open abdominal operation.
In one study41 that used patients with connective tissue diseases as the control group, the revised ACR diagnostic criteria for systemic lupus erythematosus were found to have an overall sensitivity of 96 percent and a specificity of 96 percent. Other studies21,32,43 have reported sensitivities ranging from 78 to 96 percent and specificities ranging from 89 to 100 percent. The ACR criteria may be less accurate in patients with mild disease.21
Combination treatment: Health care providers may combine a few medications to control lupus and prevent tissue damage. Each treatment has risks and benefits. Most immune-suppressing medications may cause side effects and require close monitoring. Side effects of these drugs may include a raised risk of infections as well as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis (weak bones). Rheumatologists may lower the dose of a drug or stop a medicine because of side effects or when the disease goes into remission. As a result, it is important to receive careful and frequent health exams and lab tests to track your symptoms and change your treatment as needed.
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).
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.
Subacute Cutaneous Lupus can cause skin lesions on any part of the body. These lesions often form red, ring-shaped, scaly patches on the skin. These lesions do not itch and often appear on the chest as well as the upper back and neck; however, they may also be seen on the face and arms. Typically, these lesions occur on areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent lights. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for patients with SCLE to have associated joint disease.

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".


Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids (prednisone) may help reduce swelling, tenderness, and pain. In high doses, they can calm the immune system. Corticosteroids, sometimes just called “steroids,” come in different forms: pills, a shot, or a cream to apply to the skin. Lupus symptoms usually respond very quickly to these powerful drugs. Once this has happened, your doctor will lower your dose slowly until you no longer need it. The longer a person uses these drugs, the harder it becomes to lower the dose. Stopping this medicine suddenly can harm your body.
Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) is a autoimmune disorder that causes overlapping features of three connective tissue disorders: lupus, scleroderma, and polymyositis. MCTD may also have features of rheumatoid arthritis. This condition is most often diagnosed in women in their 20’s and 30’s. Occasionally, children are affected. At this time the cause of this condition is unknown.
An abnormal elevation of temperature. The normal temperature taken orally ranges from about 97.6° to 99.6°F (36.3°C to 37.6°C). Rectal temperature is 0.5° to 1.0°F higher than oral temperature. Normal temperature fluctuates during the day and is lowest in the morning and highest in the late afternoon; these variations are maintained during a fever. The expended basal energy is estimated to be increased about 12% for each degree centigrade of fever.
Blood clots are seen with increased frequency in lupus. Clots often occur in the legs (a vein clot, called deep venous thrombosis), lungs (a lung clot, called pulmonary embolus), or brain (stroke). Blood clots that develop in lupus patients may be associated with the production of antiphospholipid antibodies. These antibodies are abnormal proteins that may increase the tendency of the blood to clot.
This gene encodes an adapter protein that acts as a substrate of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR)-activated protein tyrosine kinase pathway. The encoded protein associates with growth factor receptor bound protein 2, and is thought to play a role TCR-mediated intracellular signal transduction. A similar protein in mouse plays a role in normal T-cell development and activation. Mice lacking this gene show subcutaneous and intraperitoneal fetal hemorrhaging, dysfunctional platelets and impaired viability.
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.
A biopsy is a procedure that removes a small piece of living tissue from your body. The tissue is examined with a microscope for signs of damage or disease. Biopsies can be done on all parts of the body. A biopsy is the only test that can tell for sure if a suspicious area is cancer. But biopsies are performed for many other reasons too. There are different ways to do a biopsy. A needle biopsy removes tissue with a needle passed through your skin to the site of the problem. Other kinds of biopsies require surgery.
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]
Blood and urine tests. The antinuclear antibody (ANA) test can show if your immune system is more likely to make the autoantibodies of lupus. Most people with lupus test positive for ANA. But, a positive ANA does not always mean you have lupus. If you test positive for ANA, your doctor will likely order more tests for antibodies that are specific to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

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.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) has been helpful in reducing fatigue, improving thinking difficulties, and improving quality of life in people with SLE. Recent research indicates that DHEA diet supplementation has been shown to improve or stabilize signs and symptoms of SLE. DHEA is commonly available in health-food stores, pharmacies, and many groceries.
Genetics Doctors and researchers believe a genetic predisposition may contribute to the development of lupus, says Kaplan. Dozens of genetic variations have been found to be associated with the disease, affecting who gets it and how severe those cases are, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. That means the disease is hereditary, making parents more likely to pass it to their children. But just because you are genetically predisposed to the condition, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it.
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.
Below you will find that list, accompanied by questions created by the LFA to help individuals determine whether they should contact a healthcare professional to discuss the potential for having lupus. The LFA suggests discussing the possibility with a doctor if you answer “yes” to more than three of the questions, from your present and past health history.

In recent years, mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) has been used as an effective medication for lupus, particularly when it is associated with kidney disease. CellCept has been helpful in reversing active lupus kidney disease (lupus renal disease) and in maintaining remission after it is established. Its lower side-effect profile has advantage over traditional immune-suppression medications.

A substance that blocks a type of enzyme called a kinase. Human cells have many different kinases, and they help control important functions, such as cell signaling, metabolism, division, and survival. Certain kinases are more active in some types of cancer cells and blocking them may help keep the cancer cells from growing. Kinase inhibitors may also block the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.

According to Goldman Foung, “A diet rich in vegetables gives me energy and keeps me feeling strong and healthy." She typically eats meals filled with dark leafy greens and other colorful vegetables, eats lots of whole grains, and limits her consumption of meat and processed foods. “I also try to drink fresh-pressed beet juice as often as possible,” she adds. “It’s a great way to sneak in some of those body-boosting ingredients.”

16α-OH 16α-hydroxyestrone; 2-OH 2-hydroxyestrone; Akt protein kinase B; BAFF B-cell activating factor; EGCG epigallocatechin gallate; ER oestrogen receptor; EVOO extra virgin olive oil; FOXP3 forkhead box P3; I3C indole-3-carbinol; IFN interferon; LPS lipopolysaccharide; MRL Murphy Roths large; NZB/W New Zealand black/white; Nrf-2 nuclear factor E2-related factor 2; SLE systemic lupus erythematosus; Th T-helper; Treg regulatory T-cell; dsDNA double-stranded DNA; ppm parts per million; Diet; Immunomodulation; Lupus; Nutrients; Systemic lupus erythematosus


However, three placebo-controlled studies, including the Exploratory Phase II/III SLE Evaluation of Rituximab [EXPLORER] trial and the Lupus Nephritis Assessment with Rituximab [LUNAR] trial, [124, 125] failed to show an overall significant response. Despite the negative results in these trials, rituximab continues to be used to treat patients with severe SLE disease that is refractory to standard therapy.
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.
Belimumab, a type of agent referred to as a B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) protein inhibitor, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2011 for patients with lupus who are receiving other standard therapies, including those listed above. Given by IV infusion, belimumab may reduce the number of abnormal B cells thought to be a problem in lupus.
Opportunistic infections can develop, most often in patients receiving chronic immunosuppressive therapy. Another less-common complication is osteonecrosis, especially of the hips and knees after prolonged high-dose corticosteroid usage. More commonly, premature atherosclerotic disease and myocardial infarction are indolent complications of chronic inflammation and steroids.
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 may contribute to symptoms of fatigue (low red blood cell count, anemia), serious infections (low white blood cell count), or easy bruising (low platelet count). However, many patients do not have symptoms that indicate blood abnormalities, so it is important for lupus patients to have periodic blood tests in order to detect any problems.
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]
Anemia is common in children with SLE[20] and develops in about 50% of cases.[21] Low platelet and white blood cell counts may be due to the disease or a side effect of pharmacological treatment. People with SLE may have an association with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome[22] (a thrombotic disorder), wherein autoantibodies to phospholipids are present in their serum. Abnormalities associated with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome include a paradoxical prolonged partial thromboplastin time (which usually occurs in hemorrhagic disorders) and a positive test for antiphospholipid antibodies; the combination of such findings have earned the term "lupus anticoagulant-positive". Another autoantibody finding in SLE is the anti-cardiolipin antibody, which can cause a false positive test for syphilis.[citation needed]

“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.”


Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone, are related to cortisol, which is a natural anti-inflammatory hormone. They work by rapidly suppressing inflammation. Corticosteroids can be given by mouth, in creams applied to the skin, by injection, or by intravenous (IV) infusion (dripping the drug into the vein through a small tube). Because they are potent drugs, the doctor will seek the lowest dose required to achieve the desired benefit.
Everett adds that eating fish for protein is particularly good. Fish — especially salmon, tuna, and mackerel — contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important because they help fight inflammation, she says. Omega-3s, which are also available as supplements, may decrease your risk for heart disease. This may be especially important for women with lupus because they have at least double the risk of heart disease compared with women who don't have lupus, according to a review of studies published in August 2013 in Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. “Lupus is an independent risk factor for heart disease, so you should maintain a heart-healthy diet that helps fight inflammation and keeps you at a healthy weight," Everett says.

So what happens when you grow up and learn that you have lupus, or another equally devastating chronic illness?  Should all of your nutritional decisions now be based on what your body needs rather than what tastes best? Can they be one in the same?  If you are one of the lucky ones, they already are, and this transition is not quite as tough. But for others, the mandate that you should be choosing foods simply for their nutritional value may be yet, another “hard pill to swallow”, so to speak.  Thus, the lupus and diet dilemma.

Blood—hematologic disorder—hemolytic anemia (low red blood cell count), leukopenia (white blood cell count<4000/µl), lymphopenia (<1500/µl), or low platelet count (<100000/µl) in the absence of offending drug; sensitivity = 59%; specificity = 89%.[75] Hypocomplementemia is also seen, due to either consumption of C3[76] and C4 by immune complex-induced inflammation or to congenitally complement deficiency, which may predispose to SLE.


Since SLE patients can have a wide variety of symptoms and different combinations of organ involvement, no single test establishes the diagnosis of systemic lupus. To help doctors improve the accuracy of the diagnosis of SLE, 11 criteria were established by the American Rheumatism Association. These 11 criteria are closely related to the symptoms discussed above. Some people suspected of having SLE may never develop enough criteria for a definite diagnosis. Other people accumulate enough criteria only after months or years of observation. When a person has four or more of these criteria, the diagnosis of SLE is strongly suggested. Nevertheless, the diagnosis of SLE may be made in some settings in people with only a few of these classical criteria, and treatment may sometimes be instituted at this stage. Of these people with minimal criteria, some may later develop other criteria, but many never do.

Autoreactive B cells can accidentally emerge during somatic hypermutation and migrate into the germinal center light zone. Autoreactive B cells, maturated coincidentally, normally do not receive survival signals by antigen planted on follicular dendritic cells and perish by apoptosis. In the case of clearance deficiency, apoptotic nuclear debris accumulates in the light zone of GC and gets attached to FDC. This serves as a germinal centre survival signal for autoreactive B-cells. After migration into the mantle zone, autoreactive B cells require further survival signals from autoreactive helper T cells, which promote the maturation of autoantibody-producing plasma cells and B memory cells. In the presence of autoreactive T cells, a chronic autoimmune disease may be the consequence.


Based on the identified evidence the panel concluded that compared with GCs alone, the addition of other IS (CYC, MMF or TAC) is associated with significant benefits, higher remission rates and lower progression rates to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Head-to-head comparisons between MMF, TAC and high-dose CYC showed that MMF and TAC are associated with less adverse effects than high-dose CYC. Between low and high-dose CYC the balance favours the former because of better safety profile and comparable efficacy, although this conclusion is based on one trial that included predominantly Caucasians. RTX did not provide additional benefits when combined with MMF.
Symptoms vary but can include fatigue, joint pain, a red rash on the face (also called the "butterfly rash") and fever. These symptoms can periodically get worse (flare-up) and then improve.  Lupus flares can range from mild to severe, often resulting in periods in which the disease is relatively quiescent. Currently, no cures exist for lupus, and treatment often involves corticosteroids, other immunosuppressants or organ transplants. But research is providing hope for better diagnosis, treatments and even cures.
Neurological disorders contribute to a significant percentage of morbidity and mortality in people with lupus.[37] As a result, the neural side of lupus is being studied in hopes of reducing morbidity and mortality rates.[30] One aspect of this disease is severe damage to the epithelial cells of the blood–brain barrier. In certain regions, depression affects up to 60% of women with SLE.[38]
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.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs decrease joint swelling, joint pain, fever, and inflammation of the heart and lung linings. These drugs include ibuprofen (brand names Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve). Some of these NSAIDs can cause serious side effects like stomach bleeding or kidney damage. Always check with your doctor before taking any medications that are over the counter (without a prescription) for your lupus.

Affiliate Disclosure: There are links on this site that can be defined as affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase something when clicking on the links that take you through to a different website. By clicking on the links, you are in no way obligated to buy.


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.

Copyright © livehopelupus.org

×