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.
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.[45] Other genes which contain risk variants for SLE are IRF5, PTPN22, STAT4,[46] CDKN1A,[47] ITGAM, BLK,[46] TNFSF4 and BANK1.[48] Some of the susceptibility genes may be population specific.[46]

With the vast amount of misinformation available online, Gibofsky often sees patients who went on restrictive diets that are purported to reduce lupus symptoms, which they may have read about on the internet or heard about from a neighbor. “Upon further discussion, I find that they do not actually feel better on the diet and, in fact, they have multiple nutritional deficiencies that could actually be the reason behind their worsening symptoms,” she said.

An antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is a sensitive screening tool used to detect autoimmune diseases, including lupus. Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) are antibodies that are directed against certain structures within a cell's nucleus (thus, antinuclear antibody). ANAs are found in particular patterns in people with autoimmune diseases (those in which a person's immune system works against his or her own body).


Many drugs have been known to cause this form of the disease, but several are considered primary culprits. They are mainly anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants, or drugs used to treat chronic conditions such as heart disease, thyroid disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and neuropsychiatric disorders. The three drugs mostly to blame for drug-induced lupus are:

Cardiac tamponade is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the heart muscle (myocardium) and the outer covering sac of the heart (pericardium). This prevents the heart ventricles from expanding fully. The excess pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from working properly. As a result, the body does not get enough blood.


Inflammation of the kidneys caused by an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus. The condition can cause hematuria and proteinuria, and it may progress to end-stage renal disease. The most severe form of lupus nephritis, called diffuse proliferative nephritis, can cause scars to form in the kidneys. Scars are permanent, and kidney function often declines as more scars form. Early diagnosis and treatment may help prevent long-lasting damage.
There is no permanent cure for SLE. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and protect organs by decreasing inflammation and/or the level of autoimmune activity in the body. The precise treatment is decided on an individual basis. Many people with mild symptoms may need no treatment or only intermittent courses of anti-inflammatory medications. Those with more serious illness involving damage to internal organ(s) may require high doses of corticosteroids in combination with other medications that suppress the body's immune system.
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.
Nitrogen in the blood in the form of urea, the metabolic product of the breakdown of amino acids used for energy production. The normal concentration is about 8 to 18 mg/dL. The level of urea in the blood provides a rough estimate of kidney function. Blood urea nitrogen levels may be increased in the presence of dehydration, decreased renal function, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, or treatment with drugs such as steroids or tetracyclines.
Only one population-based screening study13 of systemic lupus erythematosus was identified. This study reported a prevalence of 200 cases per 100,000 women (18 to 65 years of age) in England. One review14 estimated the overall U.S. prevalence of definite systemic lupus erythematosus plus incomplete systemic lupus erythematosus (disease meeting only some diagnostic requirements for systemic lupus erythematosus) to be 40 to 50 cases per 100,000 persons.
Unfortunately, there are no widely accepted diagnostic criteria for SLE. However, many doctors use the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 11 common criteria. These criteria were designed to identify subjects for research studies, so they are very stringent. If you currently have four or more of these criteria or if you've had them in the past, chances are very high that you have SLE. However, having less than four doesn't rule out SLE. Again, additional testing may be necessary to inform a formal diagnosis. These criteria include:
It’s been found that low levels of vitamin D might be associated with increased risk of autoimmune conditions and other chronic diseases, according to a report published in the International Journal of Rheumatology. (8) If you don’t spend much time outdoors, especially during the winter, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement to prevent vitamin D deficiency.
B cells are essential for the development and pathogenesis of both systemic and organ-specific autoimmune diseases. Autoreactive B cells are typically thought of as sources of autoantibody, but their most important pathogenetic roles may be to present autoantigens to T cells and to secrete proinflammatory cytokines. A rate-limiting step in the genesis of autoimmunity then is the activation of autoreactive B cells. Here, mechanisms are discussed that normally prevent such activation and how they break down during disease. Integrating classic work with recent insights, emphasis is placed on efforts to pinpoint the precursor cells for autoantibody-secreting cells and the unique stimuli and pathways by which they are activated.
No single finding qualifies an individual as having SLE. Instead, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has devised certain classification criteria, and four or more of these criteria must be present for a classification of lupus. [The term “classification” is not synonymous with “diagnosis.” “Classification” means that reasonable certainty exists for the diagnosis of lupus for research purposes.] Although, these criteria are currently being updated, they are believed to be about 90% effective. The ACR criteria include malar rash; discoid rash; photosensitivity (development of a rash after sun exposure); oral or nasal ulcers; arthritis of multiple joints; serositis: (inflammation of the lining around the lungs or heart); kidney disease indicated by protein or casts in the urine; neurological disorders such as seizures and psychosis; and blood disorders such as hemolytic anemia, leukopenia, and lymphopenia. Other signs that are common but not included in the classification criteria are hair loss or breaking, especially around the forehead, and Raynaud’s Phenomenon, a two- or three-color change of the fingertips upon cold exposure.

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.
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.

Approximately 20% of people with SLE have clinically significant levels of antiphospholipid antibodies, which are associated with antiphospholipid syndrome.[90] Antiphospholipid syndrome is also related to the onset of neural lupus symptoms in the brain. In this form of the disease the cause is very different from lupus: thromboses (blood clots or "sticky blood") form in blood vessels, which prove to be fatal if they move within the blood stream.[79] If the thromboses migrate to the brain, they can potentially cause a stroke by blocking the blood supply to the brain.


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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.

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.
Numerous studies suggest that moderate intake of alcohol may decrease the risks of developing cardiovascular disease problems, increase HDL good cholesterol levels, and may even decrease the risk for certain cancers. However, the sugar it contains will increase your calorie consumption (potentially contributing to weight gain) and regular alcohol consumption may increase the risk for breast cancer.
Joints that are red, warm, tender, and swollen may signal lupus. Aching and stiffness alone aren’t enough; the joints have to be affected by arthritis and these other "cardinal signs of inflammation," says Michael Belmont, MD, director of the lupus clinic at Bellevue Hospital and medical director at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City.

The symptoms involved in CREST syndrome are associated with the generalized form of the disease Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). CREST is an acronym for the clinical features that are seen in a patient with this disease. The “C” stands for calcinosis, where calcium deposits form under the skin on the fingers or other areas of the body. The “R”, stands for Raynaud’s phenomenon, spasm of blood vessels in the fingers or toes in response to cold or stress. The “E” represents esophageal dysmotility, which can cause difficulty in swallowing. The “S” is for sclerodactyly, tightening of the skin causing the fingers to bend. Finally, the letter “T” is for telangiectasia, dilated vessels on the skin of the fingers, face, or inside of the mouth.
If you notice these symptoms or a combination of these symptoms and they can’t be explained by another problem or illness you know you have, see your doctor to get them checked out. With early diagnosis and treatment, many of the symptoms of lupus and its complications can be managed, says Stuart D. Kaplan, MD, the chief of rheumatology at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Hewlett, New York.
These conditions may be treated with high-dose intravenous steroids and cytotoxic therapy such as cyclophosphamide. Strokes, acute myocardial infarctions, and pulmonary emboli occurring as complications of SLE are managed in the same way as they are in patients without SLE. In patients who present with fever, it may be necessary to limit immunosuppression to steroids and to empirically treat for an infection until culture results have been received.
Madeline Gilkes focused her research project for her Master's of Healthcare Leadership on Health Coaching for Long-Term Weight Loss in Obese Adults. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate in Aged Care, Bachelor of Nursing, Certificate IV Weight Management and Certificate IV Frontline Management. Madeline is an academic and registered nurse. Her vision is to prevent lifestyle diseases, obesogenic environments, dementia and metabolic syndrome. She has spent the past years in the role of Clinical Facilitator and Clinical Nurse Specialist (Gerontology and Education).

These are low in nutrients and may also contribute to poor digestion, weight gain, inflammation and other symptoms. Most also contain gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye and most flour-containing products. Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is common in those with autoimmune disorders because gluten can be difficult for many people to digest properly, increasing leaky gut syndrome and triggering symptom flare-ups. (6)

Once a lupus diagnosis has been confirmed by your physician, you will have many questions.  Here is a quick list of questions to help you get started in getting the necessary information in order to have a better understanding of your specific symptoms and move forward towards the most successful course of treatment and/or management of the disease. It may also be helpful to have an advocate along with you like a friend or loved one to help you remember important details:


These are used in packaged/processed products and often to fry foods. Cooking at home more and avoiding fast foods, processed meats, and packaged sweets or cheeses can help you decrease your intake. Some people with lupus have a hard time metabolizing saturated fats and should limit sources like cheese, red meat and creamy foods if they causes symptoms to worsen.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex multisystemic autoimmune disease resulting, oftentimes, in irreversible damage, diminished quality of life and reduced life expectancy.1–3 Genetic and environmental factors play important roles in its pathogenesis.4–8 Disease manifestations and severity vary according to the patients’ racial/ethnic background and socioeconomic status (SES).1 9 10 Data from Grupo Latino Americano de Estudio del Lupus (GLADEL), Lupus in Minorities: Nature vs Nurture (LUMINA) and the Lupus Family Registry and Repository cohorts have demonstrated that Latin American and North American Mestizo patients (mixed Amerindian and European ancestry), African descendants and Native Americans develop lupus earlier11 12 although diagnostic delays may occur.1 They also experience more severe disease, have higher disease activity levels,1 accrue more organ damage2 and have higher mortality rates,1 succumbing mainly to disease activity and/or infections.1 3 13–15
The monoclonal antibody belimumab (Benlysta), a B-lymphocyte stimulator–specific inhibitor, has been found to reduce disease activity and possibly decrease the number of severe flares and steroid use in patients with SLE when used in combination with standard therapy. [114] In March, 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of belimumab in combination with standard therapies (including steroids, nonbiologic DMARDS [eg, hydroxychloroquine, azathioprine, methotrexate]) to treat active autoantibody-positive SLE. [115]  In July 2017, a subcutaneous (SC) formulation was approved that allows patients to self-administer a once-weekly dose. [162]
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.

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