Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic, recurrent, potentially fatal multisystem inflammatory disorder that can be difficultto diagnose.1,2 The disease has no single diagnostic marker; instead, it is identified through a combination of clinical and laboratory criteria.3 Accurate diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus is important because treatment can reduce morbidity4–11 and mortality,12 particularly from lupus nephritis. This article reviews evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus by primary care physicians.
Inflammation of the pleurae known as pleurisy can rarely give rise to shrinking lung syndrome. SLE can cause pleuritic pain and also give rise to shrinking lung syndrome, involving a reduced lung volume. Other associated lung conditions include pneumonitis, chronic diffuse interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary emboli, and pulmonary hemorrhage.
Patients with SLE exhibit a variety of symptoms depending on the severity of their disease. In some cases, the onset of SLE is sudden, with patients developing fever and a general feeling of malaise (that can be mistaken for an acute infection), whereas other patients experience less acute episodes of fever and feeling unwell over many months and years.
An increase in the size of an organ, structure, or the body due to growth rather than tumor formation. This term is generally restricted to an increase in size or bulk that results not from an increase in the number of cells but from an increase in a cellular component, e.g., proteins. It applies to any increase in size as a result of functional activity.
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.
CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Most heart attacks happen when a blood clot suddenly cuts off the hearts’ blood supply, causing permanent heart damage.
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.
Why the test is used: Between 75% and 90% of people with lupus have a positive anti-dsDNA test. Also, the test is very specific for lupus. Therefore, a positive test can be useful in confirming a diagnosis. For many people, the titer, or level, of the antibodies rises as the disease becomes more active. So, doctors can also use it to help measure disease activity. Also, the presence of anti-dsDNA indicates a greater risk of lupus nephritis, a kidney inflammation that occurs with lupus. So a positive test can alert doctors to the need to monitor the kidneys.
It also recommends intravenous Ig with/without GCs or RTX plus GCs for patients who are refractory to high-dose GCs, those with life-threatening bleeding, those requiring urgent surgery and those with infections (strong recommendation based on moderate certainty of the evidence). Cost and availability, however, may prompt the use of IS instead of RTX although there are no data to support this assertion (table 4).
Lupus is diagnosed when a person has several features of the disease (including symptoms, findings on examination, and blood test abnormalities). The American College of Rheumatology has devised criteria to assist doctors in making the correct diagnosis of lupus. A person should have at least four of the following 11 criteria, either at the same time or one after the other, to be classified as having lupus. These criteria include:
For people with joint or chest pain or fever, drugs that decrease inflammation, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are often used. Although some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are available over the counter, a doctor’s prescription is necessary for others. NSAIDs may be used alone or in combination with other types of drugs to control pain, swelling, and fever. Even though some NSAIDs may be purchased without a prescription, it is important that they be taken under a doctor’s direction.
One of several different tests used to evaluate the condition of the respiratory system. Measures of expiratory flow and lung volumes and capacities are obtained. The forced vital capacity is one of the more important pulmonary function tests; it provides a measure of the amount of air that can be maximally exhaled after a maximum inspiration and the time required for that expiration. Pulmonary function tests can also determine the diffusion ability of the alveolar-capillary membrane.
Deal with one problem at a time, Keep finding ways to enjoy the outdoors but stay away from the sun. Florescent lights also seem to cause flareups in skin from my wife’s experience. A good book I read called “The Sun Is My Enemy” covers an experience that follows what you describe, and it helps to understand the symptoms and life long effects than need addressing but don’t determine quality or length of life.
If this disorder is suspected in people, brain scans are usually required for early detection. These scans can show localized areas of the brain where blood supply has not been adequate. The treatment plan for these people requires anticoagulation. Often, low-dose aspirin is prescribed for this purpose, although for cases involving thrombosis anticoagulants such as warfarin are used.
These foods are not helpful and most of them contribute to raising the risk of coronary heart disease; there is an increased risk of this in people with lupus, so you will protect yourself by reducing the amount of these you consume. The recommended daily amount of salt should not be more than six grams, which is approximately one teaspoonful; many processed foods are highly salted which means that it’s really easy to exceed this amount. Instead of seasoning your food with salt, try using lemon juice or herbs to enhance its flavour.
The GRADE approach was followed in the process (http://www.gradeworkinggroup.org) answering the clinical questions voted most relevant by the panel. The description of the methodology followed to develop these guidelines has already been published.29 All authors listed in this manuscript have participated in planning, drafting, reviewing, final approval and are accountable for all aspects of the manuscript. No ethical approval was required by institutions. We present the final recommendations and their supporting information. Comments from three patients with SLE were also considered.
Heart: If inflammation affects the heart, it can result in myocarditis and endocarditis. It can also affect the membrane that surrounds the heart, causing pericarditis. Chest pain or other symptoms may result. Endocarditis can damage the heart valves, causing the valve surface to thicken and develop. This can result in growths that can lead to heart murmurs.
Most all studies (such as the paleo and anti-inflammatory diets), are fairly in line with their recommendations. Funny enough, these dietary recommendations are for the general populous as well! So it’s not just people with lupus who should be re-aligning dietary thinking. However, as lupus is an inflammatory disease, it only makes sense that eating an anti-inflammatory diet, one rich in vitamins, iron, antioxidants and fish, also including the following suggestions, would be prudent.
The male hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), produced in the adrenals, seems to help and may reduce the need for prednisone. Although DHEA is available over-the-counter, don’t take it without medical supervision. It presents an increased risk of heart attack and breast and prostate cancer so it is vital that a physician monitor anyone taking it for lupus. Furthermore, over-the-counter brands of DHEA may not be as reliable as prescription forms.
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
People with lupus are at great risk of contracting kidney disease. Kidney failure occurs in a minority of patients with lupus nephritis, despite advances in therapy. These patients must undergo dialysis. About one-third of patients who start dialysis during an acute lupus flare will be able to discontinue it within the first year. The remaining two-thirds, and those suffering gradual deterioration of kidney function over several years will require either continual dialysis for life or a kidney transplant.
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.
There is a wide range of diets advertised to help you lose weight quickly or control various chronic diseases, such as lupus. Many people claim to be experts in nutrition yet have limited knowledge and offer no protection to the public. You should be wary of unqualified practitioners who may be offering unproven techniques to diagnose and treat nutritional problems.
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help to mitigate inflammation. Although omega-3s have not been adequately studied in lupus, studies of the general population suggest that these essential fatty acids may also boost mood and improve cardiovascular health. Fish, nuts, and flax are excellent sources of omega-3s and can be easily incorporated into everyday meals. Try to avoid saturated fats, such as those in beef and fried snack foods, since these fats are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and may actually stimulate the immune system.
We encourage you to reach out to friends, family, and join support groups to share your feelings and fears. Also, remember to be your own best advocate in your journey with lupus, take great notes, and bring a support person with you to each visit to help remind you of the doctor’s advice and information. We are always here for you, please join our online community and share your story or ask us any questions you may have! Back to top
After one more attempt at getting something useful to work with to help myself, I realized I was on my own dealing with lupus. In an internal fit of rage toward her cold, aloof attitude I decided right then and there that I would heal my lupus, (with the added bonus to never endure the presence of that 'specialist' again). I did. I don't have lupus anymore.
The theory is that eating foods that contain gut-irritating compounds causes a ‘leaky-gut’ which means that any of the non-recommended foods are not able to be digested properly, passing large pieces from the intestines directly into your blood stream. Your body sees these as foreign substances and begins to activate the immune system which will, in turn, attack not only these substances, but the body. This, according to Paleo supporters, leads to immune disorders. The Paleo diet does exclude several large food groups and encourages a high consumption of animal fats. In some cases, this may not be the best choice for an individual’s health. Back to top
Lupus is chronic, complex, and difficult to diagnose. No single lab test can tell if you have lupus. Many lupus symptoms imitate symptoms of other diseases and often come and go. Your primary care doctor or rheumatologist will use your medical history, a physical exam, and many routine as well as special tests to rule out other diseases. Many physicians also use the American College of Rheumatology's "Eleven Criteria of Lupus" to aid in the diagnosis of lupus. The criteria include symptoms as well as specific laboratory findings that provide information about the functioning of a person's immune system. In most cases, the diagnosis of lupus is made when four or more of the criteria have occurred at some time.
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.
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
The panel decided to use the body of evidence provided by observational studies because it probably better reflects reality as the RCTs are severely flawed (indirectness of population as most patients were inadequately diagnosed with APS). The panel judged the observed reduction in arterial thrombosis with high-intensity AC as a large benefit, and the bleeding increase as a large harm. Also, it was noted that the observed basal risk (risk with LDA) of thromboembolic recurrence in patients with APS and arterial events was particularly high, compared with the risk of recurrence in patients with VTD.
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.
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.
Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, the vast communications network that transmits information from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to every other part of the body. Peripheral nerves also send sensory information back to the brain and spinal cord, such as a message that the feet are cold or a finger is burned. Damage to the peripheral nervous system interferes with these vital connections. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral neuropathy distorts and sometimes interrupts messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
ANA = antinuclear antibody; CNS = central nervous system; ds-DNA = double-stranded DNA; ELISA = enzyme-linked immunoassay; ENA = extractable nuclear antigen; Ig = immunoglobulin; p-ANCA = perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody; RBCs = red blood cells; RNP = ribonucleic protein; SLE = systemic lupus erythematosus; Sm = Smith; SSA = Sjögren syndrome A; SSB = Sjögren syndrome B.
One common early symptom that can be indicative of lupus is a photosensitive rash, meaning a rash that develops in response to sun exposure, particularly on the face and upper arms, says Dr. Kramer. Other early symptoms are unexplained fever and pain, swelling, and stiffness of multiple joints. Complications such as inflammation of the lining surrounding the lungs or heart can also occur early on, he adds.
It is important to not just rely on supplements to help improve your symptoms, as both diet and supplements together are important. Supplements are unregulated, so the quality and content may vary widely. You may need to take up to several doses per day of supplements to get the same effect that is in the food. Always try and consume the food before looking into supplements. Again, speak with your doctor.
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.
Women with lupus have a higher risk of miscarriage and preterm labor, says Kaplan. Pregnant women with lupus also have a higher risk of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure, and signs that the kidneys and liver may not be functioning well. (20) If you have lupus and do get pregnant (or if you have lupus and are trying to get pregnant), see a high-risk maternal-fetal medicine specialist who has expertise in how to best handle such pregnancies.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migraines. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.
SLE is regarded as a prototype disease due to the significant overlap in its symptoms with other autoimmune diseases. This means that it is an important area of continued research and study that is utilizing diverse techniques such as GWAS, microarrays, and murine studies. Further genetic studies of multiple ethnic groups and the creation of disease models incorporating environmental influences will help to increase and refine the understanding of specific genes, linkages, as well as the mechanisms underlying the disease.
SLE can also flare during or after pregnancy. Whether flares of SLE are more frequent during pregnancy is controversial. The flares do not seem to be exceedingly more serious than those in nonpregnant patients, although pregnancy outcomes are generally more likely to be complicated. Increased rates of hypertension during pregnancy, premature delivery, unplanned cesarean delivery, postpartum hemorrhage, and maternal venous thromboembolism are all more frequent in women with SLE.
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.  Periodic complement levels and dsDNA titers may be used as adjuncts to clinical evaluation for detecting lupus flares.
Corticosteroids may also be used to get rid of lupus flares, or the appearance of symptoms after a period of remission, says Francis Luk, MD, an assistant professor of rheumatology and immunology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Depending on severity and type of flare and how many flares the patient has recently experienced, rheumatologists may adjust medications,” he adds.
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