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.
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.
Elevated expression of HMGB1 was found in the sera of people and mice with systemic lupus erythematosus, high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is a nuclear protein participating in chromatin architecture and transcriptional regulation. Recently, there is increasing evidence HMGB1 contributes to the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases due to its inflammatory and immune stimulating properties.[69]
Tingible body macrophages (TBMs) – large phagocytic cells in the germinal centers of secondary lymph nodes – express CD68 protein. These cells normally engulf B cells that have undergone apoptosis after somatic hypermutation. In some people with SLE, significantly fewer TBMs can be found, and these cells rarely contain material from apoptotic B cells. Also, uningested apoptotic nuclei can be found outside of TBMs. This material may present a threat to the tolerization of B cells and T cells. Dendritic cells in the germinal center may endocytose such antigenic material and present it to T cells, activating them. Also, apoptotic chromatin and nuclei may attach to the surfaces of follicular dendritic cells and make this material available for activating other B cells that may have randomly acquired self-specificity through somatic hypermutation.[63] Necrosis, a pro-inflammatory form of cell death, is increased in T lymphocytes, due to mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and depletion of ATP.[64]
This screening test is used to detect substances or cellular material in the urine associated with metabolic and kidney disorders. It's a routine test, and doctors utilize it to detect abnormalities that often appear before patients suspect a problem. For those with acute or chronic conditions, regular urinalysis can help monitor organ function, status, and response to treatment. A higher number of red blood cells or a higher protein level in your urine may indicate that lupus has affected your kidneys.

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.


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.
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.

A complex of genes on chromosome 6 that code for the antigens that determine tissue and blood compatibility. In humans, histocompatibility antigens are called human leukocyte antigens (HLA) because they were originally discovered in large numbers on lymphocytes. There are thousands of combinations of HLA antigens. Class I MHC antigens (HLA-A, HLA-B, and HLA-C) are found on all nucleated cells and platelets. Class II antigens (HLA-DR, HLA-DQ, and HLA-DP) are found on lymphocytes and antigen processing cells and are important in the specific immune response. In tissue and organ transplantation, the extent to which the HLA or “tissue type” of the donor and recipient match is a major determinant of the success of the transplant.


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]
To ensure that the person has lupus and not another autoimmune disease, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) established a list of clinical and immunologic criteria that, in any combination, point to SLE. The criteria include symptoms that the person can identify (e.g. pain) and things that a physician can detect in a physical examination and through laboratory test results. The list was originally compiled in 1971, initially revised in 1982, and further revised and improved in 2009.[120]

Corticosteroids are more potent than NSAIDs in reducing inflammation and restoring function when the disease is active. Corticosteroids are particularly helpful when internal organs are affected. Corticosteroids can be given by mouth, injected directly into the joints and other tissues, or administered intravenously. Unfortunately, corticosteroids have serious side effects when given in high doses over prolonged periods, and the doctor will try to monitor the activity of the disease in order to use the lowest doses that are safe. Side effects of corticosteroids include weight gain, thinning of the bones and skin, infection, diabetes, facial puffiness, cataracts, and death (necrosis) of the tissues in large joints.


Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA):  A positive ANA test for the presence of these antibodies, which are produced by your immune system, indicates a stimulated immune system. While most people with lupus have a positive ANA test, most people with a positive ANA test do not have lupus.  If you have a positive ANA test, more specific antibody testing will most likely be advised.

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.

While SLE can occur in both males and females, it is found far more often in women, and the symptoms associated with each sex are different.[5] Females tend to have a greater number of relapses, a low white blood cell count, more arthritis, Raynaud's phenomenon, and psychiatric symptoms. Males tend to have more seizures, kidney disease, serositis (inflammation of tissues lining the lungs and heart), skin problems, and peripheral neuropathy.[12]
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.

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.
I recommend having your MTHFR genes tested, as this genetic mutation can impact how you detoxify mercury and other heavy metals. There are multiple options for heavy metal testing, however I’ve found the DMPS “challenge” test to be the gold standard. To assess whether someone is being exposed to mycotoxins, I use the test from Real Time Lab. If either heavy metals or mycotoxins are an issue for you, work on minimizing your exposure to these toxins, and be sure to support your detox pathways while you work to flush them out.
Lupus nephritis is one of the most common complications of lupus. (13) People with lupus nephritis are at a higher risk of developing end-stage renal disease, requiring dialysis or a transplant, says Kaplan. Symptoms of the condition include high blood pressure; swelling of the hands, arms, feet, legs, and area around the eyes; and changes in urination, such as noticing blood or foam in the urine, needing to go to the bathroom more frequently at night, or pain or trouble urinating.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Periodic follow-up and laboratory testing, including complete blood counts with differential, creatinine, and urinalyses, are imperative for detecting signs and symptoms of new organ-system involvement and for monitoring response and adverse reactions to therapies. At least quarterly visits are recommended in most cases. [151] Periodic complement levels and dsDNA titers may be used as adjuncts to clinical evaluation for detecting lupus flares.
Researchers have made great progress in identifying people at-risk for lupus and the molecular markers (something found in cells that can predict lupus flares) that appear before the onset of symptoms. From these advances, scientists hope to generate early-intervention or even disease-prevention strategies. For people with established lupus, research is focused on designing new clinical trials that test drug candidates, which, if successful, could be combined with existing therapies. The Lupus Research Alliance is funding the most innovative research in the world, with the hope of finding better diagnostics, improved treatment and, eventually, a cure.
Photosensitive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) rashes typically occur on the face or extremities, which are sun-exposed regions. Although the interphalangeal spaces are affected, the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints are spared. Photo courtesy of Dr. Erik Stratman, Marshfield Clinic.
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.
Describes a clinical trial in which two or more groups of participants receive different interventions. For example, a two-arm parallel design involves two groups of participants. One group receives drug A, and the other group receives drug B. So during the trial, participants in one group receive drug A “in parallel” to participants in the other group receiving drug B.
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]
To minimize complications in pregnancy, SLE ideally should be well controlled for at least 4-6 months before conception. Obstetricians who handle high-risk pregnancies should optimally offer pregnancy planning consultation and monitor all pregnancies in patients with SLE. Suggestions for treatment of SLE during pregnancy are also included in the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) recommendations. High-dose aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided in later pregnancy.

When the kidneys or central nervous systems are affected immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) may be used. These drugs restrain the overactive immune system by blocking production of immune cells. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bladder problems, decreased fertility, and increased risk of cancer and infection. The risks increase with the length of treatment.


Vitamins. Vitamin E, zinc, vitamin A, and the B vitamins are all beneficial in a lupus diet. Vitamin C can increase your ability to absorb iron and is a good source of antioxidants. Vitamin D is especially important for people with lupus because lupus patients need to avoid the sun, and that can result in lower absorption of vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are known to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which is common in people with lupus. Your doctor may also recommend that you take calcium and vitamin D supplements to help protect your bones. Current studies are specifically exploring whether or not vitamin D may even help relieve lupus symptoms.

An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is a special x-ray examination of the kidneys, bladder, and ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). An intravenous pyelogram is performed by injecting contrast material into a vein in the arm. A series of x-rays are taken at timed intervals as the contrast material goes through the kidneys, the ureters, and the bladder. The procedure helps to evaluate the condition of those organs.
The clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus are fundamentally the same in children and adults.15 In two descriptive studies25,26 of children with the disease, the most frequent manifestations were fever, rash, arthritis, alopecia, and renal involvement. Compared with adults, children have a higher incidence of malar rash, anemia, leukocytopenia,27 and severe manifestations such as neurologic or renal involvement.28
Sometimes, changes in blood counts (low red cell count, or anemia), may cause fatigue, serious infections (low white cell count), or easy bruising or bleeding (low platelet count). Many patients do not have symptoms from low blood counts, however, so it is important for people with lupus to have periodic blood tests in order to detect any problems.

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.

The complement system is the name of a group of blood proteins that help fight infection. Complement levels, as the name implies, measure the amount and/or activity of those proteins. Working within the immune system, the proteins also play a role in the development of inflammation. In some forms of lupus, complement proteins are consumed (used up) by the autoimmune response. A decrease in complement levels can point toward lupus nephritis, lupus nephritis, kidney inflammation. Normalization of complement levels can indicate a favorable response to treatment.
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:
A complex of genes on chromosome 6 that code for the antigens that determine tissue and blood compatibility. In humans, histocompatibility antigens are called human leukocyte antigens (HLA) because they were originally discovered in large numbers on lymphocytes. There are thousands of combinations of HLA antigens. Class I MHC antigens (HLA-A, HLA-B, and HLA-C) are found on all nucleated cells and platelets. Class II antigens (HLA-DR, HLA-DQ, and HLA-DP) are found on lymphocytes and antigen processing cells and are important in the specific immune response. In tissue and organ transplantation, the extent to which the HLA or “tissue type” of the donor and recipient match is a major determinant of the success of the transplant.
The antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is used to detect autoantibodies that react against components of the nucleus of the body's cells. It's currently one of the most sensitive diagnostic tests available for diagnosing lupus (SLE). That's because 97 percent or more of people with lupus (SLE) have a positive ANA test result. A negative ANA test result means lupus (SLE) is unlikely. 
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus or any of the less common subtypes of lupus, you may be wondering about available treatment options and which ones may be right for you. Because lupus is a chronic disease, doctors work with you to manage symptoms — which can range from mild arthritis and rash to problems with the kidneys and other organs — using a variety of medications and therapies. And the best treatment approach for you might change over time as your symptoms and the condition changes.

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