A. A healthy, young patient of mine once asked me what the chances were that she might one day develop a "terrible disease." When I asked her what she meant by "terrible disease," she surprised me: she didn't say a disease that could be fatal, but rather a disease that could attack every part of her body. By that definition, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus for short) is, indeed, a terrible disease.
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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.
What is known is that lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease (Healthdirect, 2016); meaning, that for people with lupus, their immune system attacks their healthy cells and tissues and not just foreign bodies/invaders (NIH, 2014). Evidently, this can lead to bodily damage. In the most common form of lupus, SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus), nearly all parts of the body can be affected (Healthdirect, 2016).
Heart and Lungs. Heart and lung involvement often is caused by inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericardium) and lungs (pleura). When these structures become inflamed, patients may develop chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and accumulation of fluid around the lungs (pleuritis or pleurisy) and heart (pericarditis). The heart valves and the lung itself can also be affected by lupus, resulting in shortness of breath.

Prognosis is typically worse for men and children than for women; however, if symptoms are present after age 60, the disease tends to run a more benign course. Early mortality, within 5 years, is due to organ failure or overwhelming infections, both of which can be altered by early diagnosis and treatment. The mortality risk is fivefold when compared to the normal population in the late stages, which can be attributed to cardiovascular disease from accelerated atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death for people with SLE.[83] To reduce the potential for cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure and high cholesterol should be prevented or treated aggressively. Steroids should be used at the lowest dose for the shortest possible period, and other drugs that can reduce symptoms should be used whenever possible.[83]


THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
In this presentation, Ms. Everett covers the relationship of diet and nutritional considerations and lupus, osteoporosis, medication side effects, and vitamins and supplements. This is the first of a two-part presentation. In Part II, Ms. Everett will focus more specifically on nutrition and the importance of heart health and kidney health for people with lupus. Before beginning the presentation, Ms. Everett highlighted that nutrition has become an important area of research in regard to lupus.

No overarching diet exists for people with lupus. However, lupus is a systemic disease, so maintaining good nutritional habits will help your body remain as healthy as possible. Generally, doctors recommend a diet composed of about 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 30% fat. However, since people with lupus often experience symptoms like weight loss or gain, inflammation, osteoporosis, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, certain specific nutritional concerns may also need to be taken into consideration. If you need help managing your weight or making healthy food choices, please speak with your doctor. S/he can give you more specific information and refer you to a registered dietitian if needed.
Acute Cutaneous Lupus results in flat red patches on the cheeks and nose called a malar or butterfly rash that looks quite like sunburn. These patches may also appear on the arms, legs, trunk and any other area that is commonly exposed to the sun. Patients with Acute Cutaneous Lupus can also manifest oral ulcers, hives and temporary hair loss. Acute Cutaneous Lupus is more common in people living with SLE.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful in reducing inflammation and pain in muscles, joints, and other tissues. Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn), and sulindac (Clinoril). Since the individual response to NSAIDs varies, it is common for a doctor to try different NSAIDs to find the most effective one with the fewest side effects. The most common side effects are stomach upset, abdominal pain, ulcers, and even ulcer bleeding. NSAIDs are usually taken with food to reduce side effects. Sometimes, medications that prevent ulcers while taking NSAIDs, such as misoprostol (Cytotec), are given simultaneously.

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.


There is no single test to definitively diagnose lupus, and it could take months or even years to be sure. Typically, your doctor will conduct a complete medical history and physical exam, including blood tests. The doctor may also perform skin and kidney biopsies (extracting tissue samples that are then examined under a microscope) to make a diagnosis.
However, three placebo-controlled studies, including the Exploratory Phase II/III SLE Evaluation of Rituximab [EXPLORER] trial and the Lupus Nephritis Assessment with Rituximab [LUNAR] trial, [124, 125] failed to show an overall significant response. Despite the negative results in these trials, rituximab continues to be used to treat patients with severe SLE disease that is refractory to standard therapy.
SLE may cause pericarditis—inflammation of the outer lining surrounding the heart, myocarditis—inflammation of the heart muscle, or endocarditis—inflammation of the inner lining of the heart. The endocarditis of SLE is non-infectious, and is also called (Libman–Sacks endocarditis). It involves either the mitral valve or the tricuspid valve. Atherosclerosis also occurs more often and advances more rapidly than in the general population.[23][24]
The classical period began when the disease was first recognized in the Middle Ages. The term lupus is attributed to 12th-century Italian physician Rogerius Frugard, who used it to describe ulcerating sores on the legs of people.[107] No formal treatment for the disease existed and the resources available to physicians to help people were limited.[108]
Maybe. Start by seeing your family doctor and a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in the diseases of joints and muscles such as lupus. Depending on your symptoms or whether your organs have been hurt by your lupus, you may need to see other types of doctors. These may include nephrologists, who treat kidney problems, and clinical immunologists, who treat immune system disorders.

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.
People with SLE have intense polyclonal B-cell activation, with a population shift towards immature B cells. Memory B cells with increased CD27+/IgD—are less susceptible to immunosuppression. CD27-/IgD- memory B cells are associated with increased disease activity and renal lupus. T cells, which regulate B-cell responses and infiltrate target tissues, have defects in signaling, adhesion, co-stimulation, gene transcription, and alternative splicing. The cytokines B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLys), interleukin 6, interleukin 17, interleukin 18, type I interferons, and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) are involved in the inflammatory process and are potential therapeutic targets.[4][60][61]

“There are no foods that cause lupus and no foods that cure it, but eating a well-balanced diet may help combat some of the side effects of medications, as well as alleviate symptoms of the disease,” said Laura Gibofsky, MS, RD, CSP, CDN, a clinical nutritionist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, New York. First, the “Western diet,” consisting of an excess of fatty, salty, sugary foods, has been implicated in autoimmune diseases overall.2 Proper nutrition can also help improve the risk of comorbid diseases that commonly affect patients with SLE.


A substance that blocks a type of enzyme called a kinase. Human cells have many different kinases, and they help control important functions, such as cell signaling, metabolism, division, and survival. Certain kinases are more active in some types of cancer cells and blocking them may help keep the cancer cells from growing. Kinase inhibitors may also block the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.
In recent years, mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) has been used as an effective medication for lupus, particularly when it is associated with kidney disease. CellCept has been helpful in reversing active lupus kidney disease (lupus renal disease) and in maintaining remission after it is established. Its lower side-effect profile has advantage over traditional immune-suppression medications.

In general, cutaneous manifestations, musculoskeletal manifestations, and serositis represent milder disease, which may wax and wane with disease activity. These are often controlled with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or low-potency immunosuppression medications beyond hydroxychloroquine and/or short courses of corticosteroids. More prolonged steroid use is generally reserved for patients with involvement of vital organs. For example, central nervous system involvement and diffuse proliferative renal disease must be recognized as more severe disease manifestations, and these are often treated with more aggressive immunosuppression. Evidence suggests a relative undertreatment of SLE patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), because the extent of lupus activity may be underestimated. [105]


If cyclophosphamide doesn’t work for patients with lupus nephritis, they now have the option of trying another drug, and more options are being tested in clinical trials, says Dr. Caricchio. For example, doctors may use CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil), Imuran (azathioprine), or Restasis (cyclosporine). Prograf (tacrolimus) may also be an effective option for lupus nephritis, according to study data appearing in the January 2016 edition of Autoimmunity Reviews. (5)

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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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