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.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people around the world. Often called wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. While osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips. Osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time, and no cure exists. But osteoarthritis treatments can slow the progression of the disease, relieve pain and improve joint function.
SLE is an autoimmune disease involving multiple organ systems, a clinical pattern of flares and remissions, and the presence of anti-nuclear autoantibodies. Whereas early symptoms most frequently involve the skin and joints, disease morbidity and mortality are usually associated with cardiovascular events and damage to major organs, particularly the kidneys. Many of the current therapeutic options are considered to be inadequate because of toxicities, accrual of organ damage, and insufficient control of the underlying disease pathology. Improved understanding of SLE pathogenesis and immunology has led to the identification of new treatment targets. Current interest is mainly focused on the targeted immunosuppressive actions provided by biologic therapy. Although the potential long-term beneficial or harmful effects of the new molecular treatments are unclear, their precise molecular targeting may reveal key relationships within the immune system and advance the cause of individualized molecular medicine.
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.

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]


The cause of SLE is not clear.[1] It is thought to involve genetics together with environmental factors.[4] Among identical twins, if one is affected there is a 24% chance the other one will be as well.[1] Female sex hormones, sunlight, smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and certain infections, are also believed to increase the risk.[4] The mechanism involves an immune response by autoantibodies against a person's own tissues.[1] These are most commonly anti-nuclear antibodies and they result in inflammation.[1] Diagnosis can be difficult and is based on a combination of symptoms and laboratory tests.[1] There are a number of other kinds of lupus erythematosus including discoid lupus erythematosus, neonatal lupus, and subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus.[1]
Thinning hair is often one of the first symptoms of lupus. Hair loss is the result of inflammation of the skin and scalp. Some people with lupus lose hair by the clump. More often, hair thins out slowly. Some people also have thinning of the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair. Lupus can cause hair to feel brittle, break easily, and look a bit ragged, earning it the name “lupus hair.”
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.
Antibodies produced by a single clone of cells; A type of protein made in the laboratory that can bind to substances in the body, including cancer cells. There are many kinds of monoclonal antibodies. A monoclonal antibody is made so that it binds to only one substance. Monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat some types of cancer. They can be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive substances directly to cancer cells.
There is no single test to definitively diagnose lupus, and it could take months or even years to be sure. Typically, your doctor will conduct a complete medical history and physical exam, including blood tests. The doctor may also perform skin and kidney biopsies (extracting tissue samples that are then examined under a microscope) to make a diagnosis.
As with all autoimmune conditions, lupus is a disease of the immune system. Your immune system has a very sophisticated mechanism for keeping you safe that it uses to identify the foreign substances that you come into contact with every day, such as allergens, toxins, infections, and even food. If your immune system deems anything dangerous, it will produce antibodies to ward off the harmful intruders.

Some people with lupus experience occasional heartburn, acid reflux, or other gastrointestinal problems. Mild symptoms can be treated with OTC antacids. If you have frequent bouts of acid reflux or heartburn, try cutting down on the size of your meals, and avoid beverages containing caffeine. Also, don’t lie down right after a meal. If symptoms continue, see your doctor to rule out other conditions.

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.
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.

An inflammatory response (inflammation) occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause. The damaged cells release chemicals including histamine, bradykinin, and prostaglandins. These chemicals cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. This helps isolate the foreign substance from further contact with body tissues.


Your primary care doctor should coordinate care between your different health care providers and treat other problems as they come up. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan to fit your needs. You and your doctor should review the plan often to be sure it is working. You should report new symptoms to your doctor right away so that your treatment plan can be changed if needed.
“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.
*All images unless otherwise noted are property of and were created by Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus. To use one of these images, please contact us at info@kflupus.org for written permission; image credit and link-back must be given to Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus. **All resources provided by us are for informational purposes only and should be used as a guide or for supplemental information, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. The personal views do not necessarily encompass the views of the organization, but the information has been vetted as a relevant resource. We encourage you to be your strongest advocate and always contact your medical provider with any specific questions or concerns.    

Heart and Lungs. Heart and lung involvement often is caused by inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericardium) and lungs (pleura). When these structures become inflamed, patients may develop chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and accumulation of fluid around the lungs (pleuritis or pleurisy) and heart (pericarditis). The heart valves and the lung itself can also be affected by lupus, resulting in shortness of breath.
Other drugs used to treat lupus include the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which modulates the immune system, and belimumab, a targeted drug that is a biologic (meaning it’s made from natural sources). Some chemotherapy drugs and anti-rejection drugs may be used, too, to treat patients with lupus nephritis or other organ problems, says Caricchio.

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


If you have lupus you may have noticed that certain foods tend to lead to lupus flares. A lupus flare is a period when the symptoms of lupus become more active. Kathleen LaPlant, of Cape Cod, Mass., was diagnosed with systemic lupus several years ago. "I have learned to be careful with foods that seem to trigger lupus symptoms. The biggest trigger for me has been fried foods. I have had to eliminate these from my diet," says LaPlant. It is hard to predict which foods may trigger a lupus flare, but you can start by paying close attention to your diet. If a particular type of food repeatedly causes problems, try taking it out of your diet and see if it makes a difference.

At least half of people with lupus experience fatigue. (4) Fatigue may be brought on by the disease itself or from associated depression, anxiety, lack of exercise, and problems with sleep. ( 5) Because people with lupus need to avoid sun exposure, they may have low levels of vitamin D, which can contribute to fatigue. Lupus treatments may also play a role.
A lesion of the skin or mucous membranes marked by inflammation, necrosis, and sloughing of damaged tissues. A wide variety of insults may produce ulcers, including trauma, caustic chemicals, intense heat or cold, arterial or venous stasis, cancers, drugs (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs]), and infectious agents such as Herpes simplex or Helicobact

Ms. Everett then discussed some important general nutrition guidelines of which individuals with lupus should be aware. Some key guidelines include diets low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium; low in refined sugars like soda and concentrated juices; and high in fiber. It is important to be aware of high protein diets which can often stress the kidneys. Most importantly, Ms. Everett stresses the importance of keeping a well-balanced diet.
Why the test is used: Anti-Ro is found in anywhere from 24% to 60% of lupus patients. It's also found in 70% of people with another autoimmune disorder called Sjögren's syndrome. Anti-La is found in 35% of people with Sjögren's syndrome. For this reason, their presence may be useful in diagnosing one of these disorders. Both antibodies are associated with neonatal lupus, a rare but potentially serious problem in newborns. In pregnant women, a positive Anti-Ro(SSA) or Anti-La(SSB) warns doctors of the need to monitor the unborn baby.
Scientists have suspected for years that infections from bacteria, viruses, and other toxins were likely to blame for the development of conditions like lupus. And while they have not been able to identify one single culprit, they have found strong correlations with a number of bacteria and viruses. For example, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been shown to trigger lupus in some individuals.4
Conventional medicine does not look at the body as a whole, instead viewing it in terms of isolated systems, with a separate doctor for each one. Generally, lupus patients are under the care of a rheumatologist and a doctor who specializes in the area in which they are experiencing symptoms–for example, a nephrologist for your kidneys, and a dermatologist for your skin.
Repair. It’s essential to provide the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive™ powder, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm and marshmallow root. With these ingredients, Leaky Gut Revive™ nourishes and soothes your gut cells, restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximizes gut-mending fatty acid production. Another one of my favorite supplements is collagen, which is rich in amino acids that quite literally, “seal the leaks” or perforations in your gut by repairing damaged cells and building new tissue.
Conventional lupus treatment usually involves a combination of medications used to control symptoms, along with lifestyle changes — like dietary improvements and appropriate exercise. It’s not uncommon for lupus patients to be prescribed numerous daily medications, including corticosteroid drugs, NSAID pain relievers, thyroid medications and even synthetic hormone replacement drugs. Even when taking these drugs, it’s still considered essential to eat an anti-inflammatory lupus diet in order to manage the root causes of lupus, along with reducing its symptoms.

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.
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.

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.


Normally, our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these foreign invaders. When you have lupus, your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues, so autoantibodies are made that damage and destroy healthy tissue (auto means self and anti means against, so autoantibody means against self). These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
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).
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate:  This is a blood test that is used to determine the rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a tube in one hour’s time.  If the rate is faster than normal, it may be an indication of a systemic disease, like lupus.  It is important to note that this sedimentation rate, or rate of settling, does not specifically indicate lupus, but can be elevated if other inflammatory conditions are present like cancer or an infection.
Cognitive impairment is defined as any difficulty with normal thought functions or processes, such as thinking, learning, or remembering. Cognitive impairment can occur as a neurological symptom of lupus. However, cognitive impairment is a common occurrence that happens to everyone at some time, not just lupus patients, and it can affect one single thought process or many thought processes either temporarily or permanently.
Antinuclear antibody (ANA) testing and anti-extractable nuclear antigen (anti-ENA) form the mainstay of serologic testing for SLE. Several techniques are used to detect ANAs. Clinically the most widely used method is indirect immunofluorescence (IF). The pattern of fluorescence suggests the type of antibody present in the people's serum. Direct immunofluorescence can detect deposits of immunoglobulins and complement proteins in the people's skin. When skin not exposed to the sun is tested, a positive direct IF (the so-called lupus band test) is an evidence of systemic lupus erythematosus.[70]
Recommendations are applicable to patients showing partial or total remission after induction therapy aiming at sustaining renal remission, preventing relapses and achieving the best long-term outcome. The following interventions were considered: (1) AZA; (2) MMF; (3) CYC; (4) TAC; and (5) CsA (online supplementary tables S1.1.1.7, S1.1.2.1, S1.1.2.2, S1.2.1, S1.2.3, S1.2.4, S1.2.5, S1.2.6, S1.2.7).
If you have lupus, the autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue, then you know there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all “lupus diet.” But that doesn’t mean that a healthy diet isn’t important to lupus management. You need to eat meals that are balanced and heart-healthy, with nutrient-dense foods that minimize inflammation. It’s not complicated, but there are some basics to follow.
Inflammation associated with lupus can cause stiffness, swelling, pain, and warmth of the joints, most commonly in the fingers, hands, elbows, ankles, and toes. (8) Most people with lupus will experience joint inflammation at some point, says Caricchio. For many people, joint pain is one of the first symptoms of the disease that they’ll notice and report.
Corticosteroids and immune suppressants: Patients with serious or life-threatening problems such as kidney inflammation, lung or heart involvement, and central nervous system symptoms need more “aggressive” (stronger) treatment. This may include high-dose corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone and others) and drugs that suppress the immune system. Immune suppressants include azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). Recently mycophenolate mofetil has been used to treat severe kidney disease in lupus – referred to as lupus nephritis.

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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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