Lupus is an incredibly complex autoimmune disease and diagnosing lupus can take a lot of time and many doctor visits. Patients will often get diagnosed with other “overlap” diseases such as rheumadoid arthritis (RA), Sjogren’s Syndrome, scleroderma, fibromyalgia or Raynaud’s Phenomenon even before a diagnosis of lupus is made. This can be incredibly frustrating for you as well as your doctors. Understanding the process of getting a lupus diagnosis is one of the most common questions we get here as well as a main topic in the discussions on our Facebook page and our other social media platforms. The goal of this blog is to give a clear understanding of the diagnosis process and provide the tools needed to go back to your doctor (or a new doctor) armed with the information you need.
The modern period, beginning in 1920, saw major developments in research into the cause and treatment of discoid and systemic lupus. Research conducted in the 1920s and 1930s led to the first detailed pathologic descriptions of lupus and demonstrated how the disease affected the kidney, heart, and lung tissue.[115] A major breakthrough was made in 1948 with the discovery of the LE cell (the lupus erythematosus cell—a misnomer, as it occurs with other diseases as well). Discovered by a team of researchers at the Mayo Clinic, they discovered that the white blood cells contained the nucleus of another cell that was pushing against the white's cell proper nucleus.[116] Noting that the invading nucleus was coated with antibody that allowed it to be ingested by a phagocytic or scavenger cell, they named the antibody that causes one cell to ingest another the LE factor and the two nuclei cell result in the LE cell.[117] The LE cell, it was determined, was a part of an anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) reaction; the body produces antibodies against its own tissue. This discovery led to one of the first definitive tests for lupus since LE cells are found in approximately 60% of all people diagnosed with lupus.[118] The LE cell test is rarely performed as a definitive lupus test today as LE cells do not always occur in people with SLE and can occur in individuals with other autoimmune diseases. Their presence can be helpful in establishing a diagnosis but no longer indicates a definitive SLE diagnosis.
In SLE patients with serious brain (lupus cerebritis) or kidney disease (lupus nephritis), plasmapheresis is sometimes used to remove antibodies and other immune substances from the blood to suppress immunity. Plasmapheresis is a process of removing blood and passing the blood through a filtering machine, then returning the blood to the body with its antibodies removed. Rarely, people with SLE can develop seriously low platelet levels, thereby increasing the risk of excessive and spontaneous bleeding. Since the spleen is believed to be the major site of platelet destruction, surgical removal of the spleen is sometimes performed to improve platelet levels. Other treatments have included plasmapheresis and the use of male hormones.

Along with nutritional deficiencies, steroid medications can cause significant weight gain and increased cholesterol, blood glucose, and triglycerides, further underscoring the need for patients with SLE who are taking these agents to follow a healthy diet to counter the effects.6 There are also specific things that individuals with SLE should avoid, including alfalfa sprouts and garlic, which can stimulate an already overactive immune system.7 


Systemic sclerosis (SSc): Similar symptoms between SSc and lupus are reflux and Raynaud's disease (when your fingers turn blue or white with cold). One difference between SSc and lupus is that anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Smith (Sm) antibodies, which are linked to lupus, don't usually occur in SSc. Another differentiator is that people with SSc often have antibodies to an antigen called Scl-70 (topoisomerase I) or antibodies to centromere proteins.
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.[104]
Acute cutaneous: This is the type of skin flare that occurs when your SLE is active. Lesions associated with acute cutaneous lupus appear as flattened areas of red skin on the face, reminiscent of a sunburn—the telltale butterfly rash. These lesions can appear on the arms, legs, and body, and are photosensitive. Though the lesions may discolor the skin, they don't scar. Lesions typically appear during a flare or after sun exposure.
The modern period, beginning in 1920, saw major developments in research into the cause and treatment of discoid and systemic lupus. Research conducted in the 1920s and 1930s led to the first detailed pathologic descriptions of lupus and demonstrated how the disease affected the kidney, heart, and lung tissue.[115] A major breakthrough was made in 1948 with the discovery of the LE cell (the lupus erythematosus cell—a misnomer, as it occurs with other diseases as well). Discovered by a team of researchers at the Mayo Clinic, they discovered that the white blood cells contained the nucleus of another cell that was pushing against the white's cell proper nucleus.[116] Noting that the invading nucleus was coated with antibody that allowed it to be ingested by a phagocytic or scavenger cell, they named the antibody that causes one cell to ingest another the LE factor and the two nuclei cell result in the LE cell.[117] The LE cell, it was determined, was a part of an anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) reaction; the body produces antibodies against its own tissue. This discovery led to one of the first definitive tests for lupus since LE cells are found in approximately 60% of all people diagnosed with lupus.[118] The LE cell test is rarely performed as a definitive lupus test today as LE cells do not always occur in people with SLE and can occur in individuals with other autoimmune diseases. Their presence can be helpful in establishing a diagnosis but no longer indicates a definitive SLE diagnosis.

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fists. They are located near the middle of your back, just below the rib cage. Inside each kidney about a million tiny structures called nephrons filter blood. They remove waste products and extra water, which become urine. The urine flows through tubes called ureters to your bladder, which stores the urine until you go to the bathroom. Most kidney diseases attack the nephrons. This damage may leave kidneys unable to remove wastes. Causes can include genetic problems, injuries, or medicines.


SLE-associated skin manifestations can sometimes lead to scarring. In discoid lupus, only the skin is typically involved. The skin rash in discoid lupus often is found on the face and scalp. It usually is red and may have raised borders. Discoid lupus rashes are usually painless and do not itch, but scarring can cause permanent hair loss (alopecia). Over time, 5%-10% of those with discoid lupus may develop SLE.


Jump up ^ Smyth, Andrew; Guilherme H.M. Oliveira; Brian D. Lahr; Kent R. Bailey; Suzanne M. Norby; Vesna D. Garovic (November 2010). "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Pregnancy Outcomes in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Lupus Nephritis". Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. 5 (11): 2060–2068. doi:10.2215/CJN.00240110. PMC 3001786. PMID 20688887. Archived from the original on 2016-01-26.
The modern period, beginning in 1920, saw major developments in research into the cause and treatment of discoid and systemic lupus. Research conducted in the 1920s and 1930s led to the first detailed pathologic descriptions of lupus and demonstrated how the disease affected the kidney, heart, and lung tissue.[115] A major breakthrough was made in 1948 with the discovery of the LE cell (the lupus erythematosus cell—a misnomer, as it occurs with other diseases as well). Discovered by a team of researchers at the Mayo Clinic, they discovered that the white blood cells contained the nucleus of another cell that was pushing against the white's cell proper nucleus.[116] Noting that the invading nucleus was coated with antibody that allowed it to be ingested by a phagocytic or scavenger cell, they named the antibody that causes one cell to ingest another the LE factor and the two nuclei cell result in the LE cell.[117] The LE cell, it was determined, was a part of an anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) reaction; the body produces antibodies against its own tissue. This discovery led to one of the first definitive tests for lupus since LE cells are found in approximately 60% of all people diagnosed with lupus.[118] The LE cell test is rarely performed as a definitive lupus test today as LE cells do not always occur in people with SLE and can occur in individuals with other autoimmune diseases. Their presence can be helpful in establishing a diagnosis but no longer indicates a definitive SLE diagnosis.
Another new B-cell-suppressing treatment is belimumab (Benlysta). Belimumab blocks the stimulation of the B cells (a B-lymphocyte stimulator or BLyS-specific inhibitor) and is approved for the treatment of adults with active autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus who are receiving standard therapy. It is important to note that the efficacy of belimumab has not been evaluated in patients with severe active lupus nephritis or severe active central nervous system lupus. Belimumab has not been studied in combination with other biologic therapies or intravenous cyclophosphamide.
The variety of symptoms that lupus can bring on can make it tough to spot. Another reason the disease can be difficult to identify is that some of its most common symptoms — such as fatigue, headaches, joint pain, swelling, and fever — occur in a lot of other illnesses, too. Lupus can imitate rheumatoid arthritis, blood disorders, fibromyalgia, diabetes, thyroid problems, and more, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. (1)
Testing for antibody to double-stranded DNA antigen (anti-dsDNA) and antibody to Sm nuclear antigen (anti-Sm) may be helpful in patients who have a positive ANA test but do not meet full criteria for the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. AntidsDNA and anti-Sm, particularly in high titers, have high specificity for systemic lupus erythematosus, although their sensitivity is low. Therefore, a positive result helps to establish the diagnosis of the disease, but a negative result does not rule it out.46 The CAP guideline recommends against testing for other autoantibodies in ANA-positive patients, because there is little evidence that these tests are of benefit.46
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.
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.
The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.
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.
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.

Approval for SC belimumab was based on the BLISS-SC phase III study (n=839), which documented reduction in disease activity at week 52 in patients receiving belimumab plus standard of care, compared with those receiving placebo plus standard of care. SRI response with belimumab versus placebo was 61.4% vs 48.4%, respectively (P = 0.0006). In the belimumab group, both time to and risk of severe flare were improved (median 171 days vs 118 days; P = 0.0004), and more patients were able to reduce their corticosteroid dosage by ≥25% (to ≤7.5 mg/day) during weeks 40-52 (18.2% vs 11.9%; P = 0.0732), compared with placebo. [163]
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).

“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.


Research and documentation of the disease continued in the neoclassical period with the work of Ferdinand von Hebra and his son-in-law, Moritz Kaposi. They documented the physical effects of lupus as well as some insights into the possibility that the disease caused internal trauma. Von Hebra observed that lupus symptoms could last many years and that the disease could go "dormant" after years of aggressive activity and then re-appear with symptoms following the same general pattern. These observations led Hebra to term lupus a chronic disease in 1872.[111]
It also is known that some women with systemic lupus erythematosus can experience worsening of their symptoms prior to their menstrual periods. This phenomenon, together with the female predominance of systemic lupus erythematosus, suggests that female hormones play an important role in the expression of SLE. This hormonal relationship is an active area of ongoing study by scientists.
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.”
ANA screening yields positive results in many connective tissue disorders and other autoimmune diseases, and may occur in normal individuals. Subtypes of antinuclear antibodies include anti-Smith and anti-double stranded DNA (dsDNA) antibodies (which are linked to SLE) and anti-histone antibodies (which are linked to drug-induced lupus). Anti-dsDNA antibodies are highly specific for SLE; they are present in 70% of cases, whereas they appear in only 0.5% of people without SLE.[10] The anti-dsDNA antibody titers also tend to reflect disease activity, although not in all cases.[10] Other ANA that may occur in people with SLE are anti-U1 RNP (which also appears in systemic sclerosis and mixed connective tissue disease), SS-A (or anti-Ro) and SS-B (or anti-La; both of which are more common in Sjögren's syndrome). SS-A and SS-B confer a specific risk for heart conduction block in neonatal lupus.[71]
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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