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.
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
According to Goldman Foung, “A diet rich in vegetables gives me energy and keeps me feeling strong and healthy." She typically eats meals filled with dark leafy greens and other colorful vegetables, eats lots of whole grains, and limits her consumption of meat and processed foods. “I also try to drink fresh-pressed beet juice as often as possible,” she adds. “It’s a great way to sneak in some of those body-boosting ingredients.”

Blood—hematologic disorder—hemolytic anemia (low red blood cell count), leukopenia (white blood cell count<4000/µl), lymphopenia (<1500/µl), or low platelet count (<100000/µl) in the absence of offending drug; sensitivity = 59%; specificity = 89%.[75] Hypocomplementemia is also seen, due to either consumption of C3[76] and C4 by immune complex-induced inflammation or to congenitally complement deficiency, which may predispose to SLE.


In patients with SLE, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is at least twice that in the general population, and over half of patients have 3 or more CVD risk factors.3,4 “Following a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and fatty fish and limiting saturated and trans fats can actually help reduce the risk of heart disease,” Gibofsky told Rheumatology Advisor.


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.

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.
There have been several diet studies using omega-3 fatty acids in people who have lupus. A 2012 study looked at the eating habits of 114 SLE patients. They found that those who had a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids had worse lupus disease activity as well as higher levels of cholesterol and atherosclerosis (which can cause heart attacks and strokes). Therefore, it is important for people who have lupus to supplement their diet with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil, or supplements containing these oils. Not only may this possibly improve lupus disease activity, but it may also improve cholesterol levels, which could help to decrease the risk of getting heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.
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.
In patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies is common; depending on the assay, these antibodies have been reported in up to 30-50% of SLE patients. [137] Therefore, it is important to evaluate these patients for risk factors for thrombosis, such as use of estrogen-containing drugs, being a smoker, immobility, previous surgery, and the presence of severe infection or sepsis. [61] The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) has noted that low-dose aspirin in individuals with SLE and antiphospholipid antibodies is potentially useful for primary prevention of thrombosis and pregnancy loss. [61]

Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation, creates a wide range of signs and symptoms. Systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of the condition, can potentially involve any major organ system of the body, says Neil Kramer, MD, co-medical director at the Institute for Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey. “Therefore, the first signs and symptoms vary from patient to patient.”


Outcomes research seeks to understand the end results of particular health care practices and interventions. End results include effects that people experience and care about, such as change in the ability to function. In particular, for individuals with chronic conditions—where cure is not always possible—end results include quality of life as well as mortality.
The 19th century's research into lupus continued with the work of Sir William Osler who, in 1895, published the first of his three papers about the internal complications of erythema exudativum multiforme. Not all the patient cases in his paper had SLE but Osler's work expanded the knowledge of systemic diseases and documented extensive and critical visceral complications for several diseases including lupus.[110] Noting that many people with lupus had a disease that not only affected the skin but many other organs in the body as well, Osler added the word "systemic" to the term lupus erythematosus to distinguish this type of disease from discoid lupus erythematosus.[114] Osler's second paper noted that reoccurrence is a special feature of the disease and that attacks can be sustained for months or even years. Further study of the disease led to a third paper, published in 1903, documenting afflictions such as arthritis, pneumonia, the inability to form coherent ideas, delirium, and central nervous system damage as all affecting patients diagnosed with SLE.[110]
Preventive measures are necessary to minimize the risks of steroid-induced osteoporosis and accelerated atherosclerotic disease. [146] The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Guidelines for the prevention of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis suggest the use of traditional measures (eg, calcium, vitamin D) and the consideration of prophylactic bisphosphonate therapy.

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]


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.
Take a good multivitamin/multimineral supplement with recommended dosages of antioxidants. To help address inflammation, increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating sardines or other oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel) three times a week or supplementing with fish oil. Freshly ground flaxseeds (grind two tablespoons a day and sprinkle over cereals or salads) can also help decrease inflammation. Other dietary strategies include avoiding polyunsaturated vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, etc.), margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products made with partially hydrogenated oils. Eat a low-protein, plant-based diet that excludes all products made from cows’ milk, be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (with the exception of alfalfa sprouts, which contain the amino acid L-canavanine that can worsen autoimmunity.)

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.
Some people find that excluding gluten from their diet gives them more energy. Don’t be tempted to start excluding a lot of foods from your diet; this could lead to serious deficiencies. Avoiding gluten or dairy products will not necessarily prevent flares; food “triggers” vary greatly from person to person.  If you feel that you have problems processing certain foods, talk to your GP and ask for a referral to either a dietician or an allergy specialist within the NHS. There are commercial allergy tests available, but these are not always accurate and could cost you a lot of money but bring you no lasting benefit.
In some cases, your doctor may want to do a biopsy of the tissue of any organs that seem to be involved in your symptoms. This is usually your skin or kidney but could be another organ. The tissue can then be tested to see the amount of inflammation there is and how much damage your organ has sustained. Other tests can show if you have autoimmune antibodies and whether they're related to lupus or something else.
In its simplest definition, the CBC is used to measure red and white blood cell count, the total amount of hemoglobin in the blood, hematocrit (the amount of blood composed of red blood cells), and mean corpuscular volume (the size of red blood cells). The CBC can also count additional blood cell types like neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, and platelets.
In addition to hormonal mechanisms, specific genetic influences found on the X chromosome may also contribute to the development of SLE. Studies indicate that the X chromosome can determine the levels of sex hormones. A study has shown an association between Klinefelter syndrome and SLE. XXY males with SLE have an abnormal X–Y translocation resulting in the partial triplication of the PAR1 gene region.[104]
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]
Although no one symptom qualifies someone as having lupus, certain clinical techniques can be used to narrow down the diagnosis. For example, a test for antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) in the blood is probably the first tool a physician will use. A positive ANA test does not necessarily mean that someone has lupus; in fact, one out of five normal women has a positive ANA. However, a negative ANA test greatly reduces the suspicion.

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).


This gene encodes an adapter protein that acts as a substrate of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR)-activated protein tyrosine kinase pathway. The encoded protein associates with growth factor receptor bound protein 2, and is thought to play a role TCR-mediated intracellular signal transduction. A similar protein in mouse plays a role in normal T-cell development and activation. Mice lacking this gene show subcutaneous and intraperitoneal fetal hemorrhaging, dysfunctional platelets and impaired viability.
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.
Dozens of medications have been reported to trigger SLE. However, more than 90% of cases of "drug-induced lupus" occurs as a side effect of one of the following six drugs: hydralazine (Apresoline) is used for high blood pressure; quinidine (Quinidine Gluconate, Quinidine Sulfate) and procainamide (Pronestyl; Procan-SR; Procanbid) are used for abnormal heart rhythms; phenytoin (Dilantin) is used for epilepsy; isoniazid (Nydrazid, Laniazid) is used for tuberculosis; and d-penicillamine (used for rheumatoid arthritis
Your gut is somewhat permeable to allow very small molecules (micronutrients) pass through the intestinal wall. It’s how you absorb your food. Many factors can damage your gut, including gluten, infections, medications and stress. This damage allows much larger particles such as toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles to “leak through” your gut and enter your bloodstream, triggering an immune response. We know from the research of Dr. Alessio Fasano that leaky gut is a necessary precursor to autoimmunity, meaning if you’re dealing with lupus, you also have a leaky gut. Not to mention, your gut is where nearly 80% of your immune system lives. So in order to overcome lupus, you must first repair your gut.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) has been helpful in reducing fatigue, improving thinking difficulties, and improving quality of life in people with SLE. Recent research indicates that DHEA diet supplementation has been shown to improve or stabilize signs and symptoms of SLE. DHEA is commonly available in health-food stores, pharmacies, and many groceries.
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.
As you've possibly experienced, your doctor is not going to provide you with a healing regime so you must find your way to learning how to work with your body in a healing crisis. There are many, many answers that will support you in reducing your lupus symptoms, even reversing them altogether. Your diet for lupus should be the first line of defense.

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.


Chemokines are low-molecular-weight proteins that stimulate recruitment of leukocytes. They are secondary pro-inflammatory mediators that are induced by primary pro-inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) or tumor necrosis factor (TNF). The physiologic importance of this family of mediators is derived from their specificity. Unlike the classic leukocyte chemo-attractants, which have little specificity, members of the chemokine family induce recruitment of well-defined leukocyte subsets. Thus, chemokine expression can account for the presence of different types of leukocytes observed in various normal or pathologic states.
A normal-range ANA titer in the context of organ system involvement that suggests systemic lupus erythematosus should prompt a work-up for alternative diagnoses. If no other cause is identified, the diagnosis of ANA-negative systemic lupus erythematosus and consultation with a rheumatologist should be considered. If patients with a normal ANA titer develop new clinical features that are consistent with systemic lupus erythematosus, ANA testing should be repeated.46 [Evidence level C, consensus/expert guidelines]

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Contraception and family planning are important considerations given the risks of disease flare with exogenous estrogens and pregnancy and with the teratogenic risks of some SLE drugs. Estrogen therapies have typically been avoided to prevent disease flares; progesterone-only contraception is more often considered. [144] However, studies have suggested that oral estrogen-containing contraceptives may not be associated with disease flares or thrombosis risk in patients with mild lupus without antiphospholipid antibodies. [52, 145]
The panel concluded that both MMF plus high-dose GCs (prednisone 1–2 mg/kg/day, maximum 60 mg/day) and CYC plus high-dose GCs are associated with significant benefits in comparison to GCs alone. No significant differences between these two alternatives were noted. The panel pointed that differential pharmacokinetic effects of MMF in cLN may exist, which could require dosing increase.30 Risk of reduction of ovarian reserve and sperm abnormalities should be considered in patients with cLN treated with CYC.
Sjogren’s syndrome is a disease that causes dryness in your mouth and eyes. It can also lead to dryness in other places that need moisture, such as your nose, throat and skin. Most people who get Sjogren’s syndrome are older than 40. Nine of 10 are women. Sjogren’s syndrome is sometimes linked to rheumatic problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. In Sjogren’s syndrome, your immune system attacks the glands that make tears and saliva. It may also affect your joints, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, digestive organs and nerves. The main symptoms are:

At Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), research programs study the cells which regulate lupus to further understand disease pathogenesis - or the development of the disease – translating these findings into therapeutic targets. In addition, clinical trials are ongoing to evaluate novel therapies in this disease. BRI has a Clinical Research Registry people can join to learn about clinical trials that may be appropriate for them.
Foot pain may be caused by injuries (sprains, strains, bruises, and fractures), diseases (diabetes, Hansen disease, and gout), viruses, fungi, and bacteria (plantar warts and athlete's foot), or even ingrown toenails. Pain and tenderness may be accompanied by joint looseness, swelling, weakness, discoloration, and loss of function. Minor foot pain can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation and OTC medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Severe pain should be treated by a medical professional.
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.
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.
“I have given up sugar (except natural sugars), all soft drinks, pasta, chocolate, takeaways, and most processed foods/snacks. I have experienced a marked difference in energy levels and severity of flares, plus I have lost almost three stone in a year. I eat a simple diet, increase fruits/veg and I have found it has also helped with my stomach issues.”
Another targeted treatment, anifrolumab, is being investigated in clinical trials and appears to be promising, says Stacy Ardoin, MD, a rheumatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, citing a study in the February 2017 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatology (7). “I don’t think it will work for everyone, but it’s good to have another treatment option.”

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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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