When lupus starts affecting other organs of the body, doctors often prescribe drugs that suppress the immune system, says Kramer. (Lupus causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack itself. Immunosuppressive medications help stop that from happening.) One such example, is Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), originally an anticancer drug. It suppresses the immune system and may be used to reduce inflammation of the kidney, or nephritis, says Dr. Kaplan.

The following drugs are commonly used to treat the inflammation and symptoms of lupus. Since lupus manifests in different ways in different people, treatment regimens differ from patient to patient. In addition, one patient may experience several different treatment regimens during her/his lifetime. It is important that you understand the medications you are taking and the risks, benefits, and restrictions associated with them. Please remember to take your medications exactly as directed by your physician and to address any questions or concerns upon your next visit.


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]
Steroids . Steroid creams can be applied directly to rashes. The use of creams is usually safe and effective, especially for mild rashes. The use of steroid creams or tablets in low doses can be effective for mild or moderate features of lupus. Steroids also can be used in higher doses when internal organs are threatened. Unfortunately, high doses also are most likely to produce side effects.
A mononuclear phagocytic white blood cell derived from myeloid stem cells. Monocytes circulate in the bloodstream for about 24 hr and then move into tissues, at which point they mature into macrophages, which are long lived. Monocytes and macrophages are one of the first lines of defense in the inflammatory process. This network of fixed and mobile phagocytes that engulf foreign antigens and cell debris previously was called the reticuloendothelial system and is now referred to as the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS).
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.
A mononuclear phagocytic white blood cell derived from myeloid stem cells. Monocytes circulate in the bloodstream for about 24 hr and then move into tissues, at which point they mature into macrophages, which are long lived. Monocytes and macrophages are one of the first lines of defense in the inflammatory process. This network of fixed and mobile phagocytes that engulf foreign antigens and cell debris previously was called the reticuloendothelial system and is now referred to as the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS).

Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterized by acute and chronic inflammation of various tissues of the body. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex system within the body that is designed to fight infectious agents, such as bacteria and other foreign microbes. One of the ways that the immune system fights infections is by producing antibodies that bind to the microbes. People with lupus produce abnormal antibodies in their blood that target tissues within their own body rather than foreign infectious agents. These antibodies are referred to as autoantibodies.


When choosing dairy products, remember to go either low-fat or fat-free. Some examples include 1% and skim milk, low fat and low sodium yogurt, and low fat cheese. Foods to avoid are 2% and whole milk, which contain a large amount of fat and cholesterol. If you do not or cannot consume milk, choose lactose-free milk, soy milk, and almond milk that are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D. Aim for three or more servings a day.
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).

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We use cookies and similar technologies to improve your browsing experience, personalize content and offers, show targeted ads, analyze traffic, and better understand you. We may share your information with third-party partners for marketing purposes. To learn more and make choices about data use, visit our Advertising Policy and Privacy Policy. By clicking “Accept and Continue” below, (1) you consent to these activities unless and until you withdraw your consent using our rights request form, and (2) you consent to allow your data to be transferred, processed, and stored in the United States.


An adverse event that results in death, is life-threatening, requires inpatient hospitalization or extends a current hospital stay, results in an ongoing or significant incapacity or interferes substantially with normal life functions, or causes a congenital anomaly or birth defect. Medical events that do not result in death, are not life-threatening, or do not require hospitalization may be considered serious adverse events if they put the participant in danger or require medical or surgical intervention to prevent one of the results listed above.


The epicenter of where inflammation begins is considered to be the microbiome. The human microbiome is a very complex ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that perform essential functions like absorbing nutrients, producing hormones, and defending us from microbes and environmental toxins. These bacteria are constantly in flux throughout our lives, adapting to the foods we eat, the quality of our sleep, the amount of bacteria or chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the level of emotional stress we deal with.
In addition to prescribing medications, doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes to help manage lupus. These may include avoidance of sun exposure and paying more attention to managing stress to prevent lupus flares (periods of time when symptoms become problematic). People with lupus should also avoid smoking to help with heart and lung health, Kramer says.
Corticosteroids also can cause or worsen osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If you have osteoporosis, you should eat foods rich in calcium every day to help with bone growth. Examples are dark green, leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, collard greens), milk, cheese, and yogurt or calcium supplements that contain Vitamin D.
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]
The global rates of SLE are approximately 20–70 per 100,000 people. In females, the rate is highest between 45 and 64 years of age. The lowest overall rate exists in Iceland and Japan. The highest rates exist in the US and France. However, there is not sufficient evidence to conclude why SLE is less common in some countries compared to others; it could be the environmental variability in these countries. For example, different countries receive different levels of sunlight, and exposure to UV rays affects dermatological symptoms of SLE. Certain studies hypothesize that a genetic connection exists between race and lupus which affects disease prevalence. If this is true, the racial composition of countries affects disease, and will cause the incidence in a country to change as the racial makeup changes. In order to understand if this is true, countries with largely homogenous and racially stable populations should be studied to better understand incidence.[2] Rates of disease in the developing world are unclear.[6]
Similarly, a phase III trial of 819 SLE patients who were positive for either antinuclear antibody or anti–double-stranded DNA at baseline screening found that IV belimumab at 10 mg/kg plus standard therapy resulted in a significantly greater SRI score (43.2%) than placebo (33.5%) at 1 year (those who received belimumab 1 mg/kg plus standard therapy had a 40.6% response rate). [118] Overall, the addition of belimumab to standard therapy reduced SLE disease activity and severe flares, and the medication was well tolerated. [118]

Any of a group of glycoproteins with antiviral activity. The antiviral type I interferons (alpha and beta interferons) are produced by leukocytes and fibroblasts in response to invasion by a pathogen, particularly a virus. These interferons enable invaded cells to produce class I major histocompatibility complex surface antigens, increasing their ability to be recognized and killed by T lymphocytes. They also inhibit virus production within infected cells. Type I alpha interferon is used to treat condyloma acuminatum, chronic hepatitis B and C, and Kaposi’s sarcoma. Type I beta interferon is used to treat multiple sclerosis. Type II gamma interferon is distinctly different from and less antiviral than the other interferons. It is a lymphokine, excreted primarily by CD8+ T cells and the helper T subset of CD4+ cells that stimulates several types of antigen-presenting cells, particularly macrophages, to release class II MHC antigens that enhance CD4+ activity. It is used to treat chronic granulomatous disease.
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.
Next, Ms. Everett reviewed some of the key foods that are important for your diet. She emphasized that balance is essential – that is, to not eat too much of one thing and not enough of another. Different foods have different nutritional components. Included in the important foods that Ms. Everett highlighted were a variety of fruits and vegetables; foods low in calories and saturated fats; and foods high in antioxidants, fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Research is indicating benefits of rituximab (Rituxan) in treating lupus. Rituximab is an intravenously infused antibody that suppresses a particular white blood cell, the B cell, by decreasing their number in the circulation. B cells have been found to play a central role in lupus activity, and when they are suppressed, the disease tends toward remission. This may particularly helpful for people with kidney disease.

Drug-induced lupus erythematosus (DIL) Some drugs can cause lupus, resulting in symptoms such as rash, arthritis, hair loss, and fever. “Once medications are discontinued, the symptoms go away,” says Roberto Caricchio, MD, the interim section chief of rheumatology at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and the director of the Temple Lupus Clinic at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.


Inflammation of the lining surrounding the lungs, or pleuritis, can occur in people with lupus. This can cause symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, says Luk. The pain can worsen when taking a deep breath, sneezing, coughing, or laughing. (18) Pleural effusion, or fluid around the heart and lungs, may also develop and can cause shortness of breath or chest pain, says Caricchio.


Lupus can cause problems with the blood, too, including anemia, or low red blood cell count. Anemia can cause symptoms such as weakness and fatigue. (14) Thrombocytopenia is another blood disorder that may develop, resulting in lower platelet counts. (Platelets are the blood cells that help the blood clot.) Symptoms of thrombocytopenia can include bruising easily, nosebleeds, and petechiae, when the blood appears as red pinpoints under the skin. (15)
  According to the Mayo Clinic, “People with lupus should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that benefit overall health and can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and digestive disorders. Plant-based diets also support a healthy weight because they are naturally low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables are particularly high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body by destroying harmful substances that damage cells and tissue and cause heart disease and cancer.” Take a look at our blog, Lupus: the Diet Dilemma for some great tips. While these diets, or eating plans, may have some merit, individual foods should not be the focus. Pay attention to your overall pattern of nutrition. Reducing inflammation is not just about what you eat.  Patients should also know that these diets are never meant to be a replacement for the lupus treatments they may already be taking under the close supervision of a medical professional. Until more research is in on the effectiveness of these diets, be practical by getting enough sleep and exercise, and try to maintain a healthy weight. Back to top
Lupus is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that can affect multiple parts of the body including the various organ systems. Doctors prescribe traditional pharmaceutical medications to manage symptoms and prevent flare ups of the disease that can cause more serious problems and complications. Many patients choose to supplement their pharmaceutical care with alternative treatments and lifestyle adjustments like using diet and exercise to minimize lupus symptoms. We discuss this further in our  blog, Lupus/Chronic Illness: The Mind/Body Connection. There exists two major diets widely discussed in the autoimmune world. One is the anti-inflammatory diet and one is called the Paleo Diet.
Saturated fats, on the other hand, can raise cholesterol levels and may contribute to inflammation. So they should be limited. Sources of saturated fats include fried foods, commercial baked goods, creamed soups and sauces, red meat, animal fat, processed meat products, and high-fat dairy foods. That includes whole milk, half and half, cheeses, butter, and ice cream.
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.

In healthy conditions, apoptotic lymphocytes are removed in germinal centers (GC) by specialized phagocytes, the tingible body macrophages (TBM), which is why no free apoptotic and potential autoantigenic material can be seen. In some people with SLE, accumulation of apoptotic debris can be observed in GC because of an ineffective clearance of apoptotic cells. In close proximity to TBM, follicular dendritic cells (FDC) are localised in GC, which attach antigen material to their surface and, in contrast to bone marrow-derived DC, neither take it up nor present it via MHC molecules.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a complex and heterogeneous autoimmune disease, represents a significant challenge for both diagnosis and treatment. Patients with SLE in Latin America face special problems that should be considered when therapeutic guidelines are developed. The objective of the study is to develop clinical practice guidelines for Latin American patients with lupus. Two independent teams (rheumatologists with experience in lupus management and methodologists) had an initial meeting in Panama City, Panama, in April 2016. They selected a list of questions for the clinical problems most commonly seen in Latin American patients with SLE. These were addressed with the best available evidence and summarised in a standardised format following the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. All preliminary findings were discussed in a second face-to-face meeting in Washington, DC, in November 2016. As a result, nine organ/system sections are presented with the main findings; an ‘overarching’ treatment approach was added. Special emphasis was made on regional implementation issues. Best pharmacologic options were examined for musculoskeletal, mucocutaneous, kidney, cardiac, pulmonary, neuropsychiatric, haematological manifestations and the antiphospholipid syndrome. The roles of main therapeutic options (ie, glucocorticoids, antimalarials, immunosuppressant agents, therapeutic plasma exchange, belimumab, rituximab, abatacept, low-dose aspirin and anticoagulants) were summarised in each section. In all cases, benefits and harms, certainty of the evidence, values and preferences, feasibility, acceptability and equity issues were considered to produce a recommendation with special focus on ethnic and socioeconomic aspects. Guidelines for Latin American patients with lupus have been developed and could be used in similar settings.

Because lupus can produce a variety of symptoms in different individuals, it may take some time for a physician to actually make the diagnosis. Often a doctor will say that lupus might be present, but that the current symptoms are insufficient to signify a firm diagnosis. In this event, s/he will likely monitor the patient’s symptoms, signs, and lab tests closely over time and have him/her return for regular visits.


Lupus is treated by internal medicine subspecialists called rheumatologists. Depending on whether or not specific organs are targeted, other health specialists who can be involved in the care of patients with lupus include dermatologists, nephrologists, hematologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, and neurologists. It's not uncommon that a team of such physicians is coordinated by the treating rheumatologist together with the primary care doctor.


For resistant skin disease, other antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine (Aralen) or quinacrine, are considered and can be used in combination with hydroxychloroquine. Alternative medications for skin disease include dapsone and retinoic acid (Retin-A). Retin-A is often effective for an uncommon wart-like form of lupus skin disease. For more severe skin disease, immunosuppressive medications are considered as described below.
While most infants born to mothers who have SLE are healthy, pregnant mothers with SLE should remain under medical care until delivery. Neonatal lupus is rare, but identification of mothers at highest risk for complications allows for prompt treatment before or after birth. In addition, SLE can flare up during pregnancy, and proper treatment can maintain the health of the mother longer. Women pregnant and known to have anti-Ro (SSA) or anti-La antibodies (SSB) often have echocardiograms during the 16th and 30th weeks of pregnancy to monitor the health of the heart and surrounding vasculature.[92]
Moderate use of alcohol is usually not a problem for people with lupus, but alcohol can lower the effectiveness of some medications, cause new health problems, and/or can make existing problems worse. For example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin®), naproxen (Naprosyn®), and celecoxib (Celebrex®) -- can cause ulcers and bleeding in the stomach and intestines at any time during treatment; the chance of developing an ulcer or internal bleeding increases with alcohol use. Also, anticoagulant medicines such as warfarin (Coumadin®) and the chemotherapy drug, methotrexate, may not be as effective if you are drinking alcohol.
“There’s no specific diet for lupus, but the Mediterranean-style diet comes close to what’s most ideal," says Sotiria Everett, RD, a clinical assistant professor in the department of family, population, and preventive medicine at Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York. "You want to eat a diet that’s low in fat and sugar and has lots of fruits and vegetables. You should get some of your protein from fish and eat lots of beans and legumes because they’re high in fiber, vitamin B, and iron."
Lupus is not necessarily life threatening when treated appropriately. Up to 90 percent of patients will have a normal life expectancy if they are followed closely by their doctor and receive proper treatment. (4,5) Lupus can, however, increase mortality rates because patients have a higher risk of heart disease, infection or complications such as inflammation of the kidney, or nephritis, says Francis Luk, MD, an assistant professor of rheumatology and immunology, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
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Management of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) often depends on disease severity and disease manifestations, [8] although hydroxychloroquine has a central role for long-term treatment in all SLE patients. The LUMINA (Lupus in Minorities: Nature versus Nurture) study and other trials have offered evidence of a decrease in flares and prolonged life in patients given hydroxychloroquine, making it the cornerstone of SLE management. [104]
Research indicates that omega 3 fatty acids from fish or fish oils may help manage high triglycerides and heart disease (see references at end of this summary). There have not been any studies, however, that show a reduced disease activity with lupus. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, mackerel, bluefish, herring, mullet, tuna, halibut, lake trout, rainbow trout, ground flaxseed, walnuts, pecans, canola oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil, and are part of a heart-healthy meal plan.
EULAR recommendations for the management of SLE with neuropsychiatric manifestations support the evaluation and treatment of these symptoms in the same way as they are evaluated and treated in patients without SLE; if symptoms persist, management of these symptoms as an extension of SLE should be considered. [83, 61] For example, in patients with neuropsychiatric manifestations that may have an inflammatory etiology, immunosuppressive agents may be considered. [61]
For some patients whose kidneys or central nervous systems are affected by lupus, a type of drug called an immunosuppressive may be used. Immunosuppressives, such as cyclophosphamide and mycophenolate mofetil, restrain the overactive immune system by blocking the production of immune cells. These drugs may be given by mouth or by IV infusion. The risk for side effects increases with the length of treatment.

Libman-Sacks endocarditis is the most characteristic cardiac manifestation of lupus. It is characterized by clusters of verrucae on the ventricular surface of the mitral valve. These lesions consist of accumulation of immune complexes, platelets, and mononuclear cells. This can lead to heart failure, valvular dysfunction, emboli, and secondary infective endocarditis. Diagnosis is best made via echocardiography, which may reveal the characteristic valvular masses (arrows). IVS = interventricular septum; LA = left atrium; LV = left ventricle.

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)
A clinical trial is a prospective biomedical or behavioral research study of human subjects that is designed to answer specific questions about biomedical or behavioral interventions (drugs, treatments, devices, or new ways of using known drugs, treatments, or devices). Clinical trials are used to determine whether new biomedical or behavioral interventions are safe, efficacious, and effective.
Angiogenesis is the growth of blood vessels from the existing vasculature. It occurs throughout life in both health and disease, beginning in utero and continuing on through old age. No metabolically active tissue in the body is more than a few hundred micrometers from a blood capillary, which is formed by the process of angiogenesis. Capillaries are needed in all tissues for diffusion exchange of nutrients and metabolites. Changes in metabolic activity lead to proportional changes in angiogenesis and, hence, proportional changes in capillarity. Oxygen plays a pivotal role in this regulation. Hemodynamic factors are critical for survival of vascular networks and for structural adaptations of vessel walls.
A chronic inflammation of large arteries, usually the temporal, occipital, or ophthalmic arteries, identified on pathological specimens by the presence of giant cells. It causes thickening of the intima, with narrowing and eventual occlusion of the lumen. It typically occurs after age 50. Symptoms include headache, tenderness over the affected artery, loss of vision, and facial pain. The cause is unknown, but there may be a genetic predisposition in some families. Corticosteroids are usually administered.
The epicenter of where inflammation begins is considered to be the microbiome. The human microbiome is a very complex ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that perform essential functions like absorbing nutrients, producing hormones, and defending us from microbes and environmental toxins. These bacteria are constantly in flux throughout our lives, adapting to the foods we eat, the quality of our sleep, the amount of bacteria or chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the level of emotional stress we deal with.
Since a large percentage of people with SLE have varying amounts of chronic pain, stronger prescription analgesics (painkillers) may be used if over-the-counter drugs (mainly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) do not provide effective relief. Potent NSAIDs such as indomethacin and diclofenac are relatively contraindicated for people with SLE because they increase the risk of kidney failure and heart failure.[83]

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Today, physicians treat lupus using a wide variety of medicines, ranging in strength from mild to extremely strong. Prescribed medications will usually change during a person’s lifetime with lupus. However, it can take months—sometimes years—before your health care team finds just the right combination of medicines to keep your lupus symptoms under control.

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