What is my life expectancy if I have lupus? Lupus is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system targets healthy cells and tissues in the body. With ongoing treatment, a person with lupus can expect to live a long, high-quality life. This article explores how lupus can affect different parts of the body and what steps people may take to live with lupus. Read now
Immunosuppressive agents/chemotherapy. In advanced cases of lupus, drugs like azathioprine, methotrexate and cyclophosphamide might be used to suppress the immune system. These types of therapies can help prevent organ damage; however, they do cause severe side effects as well as infertility in women. People on immunosuppressive therapies must be closely monitored by a doctor.

Certain foods, including garlic and alfalfa sprouts, should be avoided by people with lupus. [For a more complete list of items to be avoided, please see the article “Things to Avoided” in the Lupus 101 section.] Recently controversy has also arisen over whether aspartame induces lupus. However, scientists have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that aspartame causes lupus.
It’s been found that low levels of vitamin D might be associated with increased risk of autoimmune conditions and other chronic diseases, according to a report published in the International Journal of Rheumatology. (8) If you don’t spend much time outdoors, especially during the winter, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

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.
Skin . Skin problems are a common feature of lupus. Some people with lupus have a red rash over their cheeks and the bridge of their nose -- called a "butterfly" or malar rash. Hair loss and mouth sores are also common. One particular type of lupus that generally affects only the skin is called "discoid lupus." With this type of lupus, the skin problems consist of large red, circular rashes that may scar. Skin rashes are usually aggravated by sunlight. A common lupus rash called subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus is often worse after exposure to the sun. This type of rash can affect the arms, legs, and torso. An uncommon but serious form of lupus rash results in the development of large blisters and is called a "bullous" lupus rash.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex multisystemic autoimmune disease resulting, oftentimes, in irreversible damage, diminished quality of life and reduced life expectancy.1–3 Genetic and environmental factors play important roles in its pathogenesis.4–8 Disease manifestations and severity vary according to the patients’ racial/ethnic background and socioeconomic status (SES).1 9 10 Data from Grupo Latino Americano de Estudio del Lupus (GLADEL), Lupus in Minorities: Nature vs Nurture (LUMINA) and the Lupus Family Registry and Repository cohorts have demonstrated that Latin American and North American Mestizo patients (mixed Amerindian and European ancestry), African descendants and Native Americans develop lupus earlier11 12 although diagnostic delays may occur.1 They also experience more severe disease, have higher disease activity levels,1 accrue more organ damage2 and have higher mortality rates,1 succumbing mainly to disease activity and/or infections.1 3 13–15
Lupus pregnancy deserves special review because it presents unique challenges. Pregnant women with SLE are considered high-risk pregnancies. These pregnancies require interactive monitoring generally by a skilled rheumatologist together with an obstetrician expert in high-risk pregnancies. Women with SLE who are pregnant require close observation during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period. This includes fetal monitoring by the obstetrician during later pregnancy. These women can have an increased risk of miscarriages (spontaneous abortions) and can have flares of SLE during pregnancy. The presence of phospholipid antibodies, such as cardiolipin antibodies or lupus anticoagulant, in the blood can identify people at risk for miscarriages. Cardiolipin antibodies are associated with a tendency toward blood clotting. Women with SLE who have cardiolipin antibodies or lupus anticoagulant may need blood-thinning medications (aspirin with or without heparin) during pregnancy to prevent miscarriages. Other reported treatments include the use of intravenous gamma globulin for selected people with histories of premature miscarriage and those with low blood-clotting elements (platelets) during pregnancy. Pregnant women who have had a previous blood-clotting event may benefit by continuation of blood-thinning medications throughout and after pregnancy for up to six to 12 weeks, at which time the risk of clotting associated with pregnancy seems to diminish. Plaquenil has now been found to be safe for use to treat SLE during pregnancy. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are also safely used to treat certain manifestation of lupus during pregnancy.

Lupus affects people in many different ways, so there is not one diet which is guaranteed to work for everyone, but the Mediterranean diet (plenty of fruit and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, two portions of fish per week and small amounts of meat and dairy produce) is probably the simplest one to follow and is suitable for all the family as it is a pattern of healthy eating.
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.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used preventively to reduce the incidence of flares, the progress of the disease, and the need for steroid use; when flares occur, they are treated with corticosteroids. DMARDs commonly in use are antimalarials such as hydroxychloroquine and immunosuppressants (e.g. methotrexate and azathioprine). Hydroxychloroquine is an FDA-approved antimalarial used for constitutional, cutaneous, and articular manifestations. Hydroxychloroquine has relatively few side effects, and there is evidence that it improves survival among people who have SLE.[83] Cyclophosphamide is used for severe glomerulonephritis or other organ-damaging complications. Mycophenolic acid is also used for treatment of lupus nephritis, but it is not FDA-approved for this indication, and FDA is investigating reports that it may be associated with birth defects when used by pregnant women.[86]
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)
Lupus is often missed or misdiagnosed because the symptoms are vague and can match those of other conditions. Generally, a doctor will review your medical history and your family history, and look for signs of systemic inflammation. Because lupus can involve the internal and external organs, a doctor will rely on observation as well as laboratory testing in order to make a lupus diagnosis. There is no one test for lupus–generally, many different criteria will need to come together, and it can take years to reach a diagnosis.
If you are a young woman with lupus and wish to have a baby, carefully plan your pregnancy. With your doctor’s guidance, time your pregnancy for when your lupus activity is low. While pregnant, avoid medications that can harm your baby. These include cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, and mycophenolate mofetil. If you must take any of these medicines, or your disease is very active, use birth control. For more information, see Pregnancy and Rheumatic Disease.
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Before drinking alcohol, first double-check with your doctor to make sure that it is not forbidden with your medicines. Prednisone, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, antidepressants, opioids, warfarin and methotrexate can potentially have more side effects if taken with alcohol. If you do drink alcohol it is very important to drink only in moderation.

Because some treatments may cause harmful side effects, it is important to report any new symptoms to the doctor promptly. It is also important not to stop or change treatments without talking to the doctor first. In addition to medications for lupus itself, in many cases it may be necessary to take additional medications to treat problems related to lupus such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or infection.


SLE is regarded as a prototype disease due to the significant overlap in its symptoms with other autoimmune diseases.[49] 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.[50] 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.[51]
The panel recommends HCQ plus LMWH plus LDA over HCQ plus LDA or adding GCs or intravenous Ig for pregnant patients with SLE with antiphospholipid antibodies and recurrent pregnancy loss (strong recommendation based on moderate certainty of the evidence (LMWH plus LDA vs other alternatives) and very low certainty of the evidence (GCs and intravenous Ig vs other alternatives), since high certainty of harms related to GCs (increased premature delivery) and intravenous Ig (costs increase, burden related to drug administration) exists).
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.
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.
SLE is chronic and complex, and is often difficult to diagnose. First, there is no single laboratory test that can determine if a person has SLE. Second, many symptoms of SLE are similar to those of other diseases, and can come and go over weeks and months. Finally, doctors must look at a person’s medical history, rule out other diseases, and consider both physical and laboratory evidence before a SLE diagnosis. The symptoms of SLE vary from patient to patient. 

Jump up ^ Cortés‐Hernández, J.; Ordi‐Ros, J.; Paredes, F.; Casellas, M.; Castillo, F.; Vilardell‐Tarres, M. (December 2001). "Clinical predictors of fetal and maternal outcome in systemic lupus erythematosus: a prospective study of 103 pregnancies". Rheumatology. 41 (6): 643–650. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/41.6.643. PMID 12048290. Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2011.

The ACR Quality of Care statement [147] recommends annual cardiovascular disease risk assessment; some researchers suggest that the cardiovascular risk for SLE is similar to that for diabetes mellitus. The 10-year coronary event rate is 13-15% in patients with active SLE, which is comparable to the 10-year event rate of 18.8% in patients with known coronary artery disease. [148] African American patients with SLE may be particularly vulnerable to premature cardiovascular disease and related death. [149]
Some people with lupus experience occasional heartburn, acid reflux, or other gastrointestinal problems. Mild symptoms can be treated with OTC antacids. If you have frequent bouts of acid reflux or heartburn, try cutting down on the size of your meals, and avoid beverages containing caffeine. Also, don’t lie down right after a meal. If symptoms continue, see your doctor to rule out other conditions.

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.


If your doctor suspects you have lupus based on your symptoms, a series of blood tests will be done in order to confirm the diagnosis. The most important blood screening test is ANA. If ANA is negative, you don’t have lupus. However, if ANA is positive, you might have lupus and will need more specific tests. These blood tests include antibodies to anti-dsDNA and anti-Sm, which are specific to the diagnosis of lupus.


Flare-ups of lupus can cause acute inflammation and damage to various body tissues and can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. Some of the most common symptoms are painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, kidney problems and extreme fatigue. A characteristic red skin rash – called a “malar” or “butterfly” rash because it roughly mimics the insect’s shape – may appear across the nose and cheeks. Rashes may also occur on the face and ears, upper arms, shoulders, chest, and hands. Because many lupus patients are sensitive to sunlight, skin rashes often develop or worsen after sun exposure.
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.

Many people with lupus will have some form of a rash, says Roberto Caricchio, MD, the interim section chief of rheumatology at Temple University Hospital and director of the Temple Lupus Clinic in Philadelphia. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, as many as two-thirds of people with lupus experience a skin rash, and estimates suggest that between 40 and 70 percent of people with lupus will notice that their symptoms get worse in the sun or some types of artificial light. (2)


Alternative treatments are those that are not part of standard treatment. At this time, no research shows that alternative medicine can treat lupus. Some alternative or complementary approaches may help you cope or reduce some of the stress associated with living with a chronic illness. You should talk to your doctor before trying any alternative treatments.
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.
Other sets of criteria, known as disease activity indices, exist for the monitoring of lupus. These forms allow a physician examining a patient to check for the improvement or worsening of the disease. These forms include the BILAG (British Isles Lupus Assessment Group Index), SLEDAI (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index), SLAM (Systemic Lupus Activity Measure), ECLAM (European Consensus Lupus Activity Measurement), and the Lupus Activity Index (LAI). Sometimes these indices will show no signs of lupus, even when the patient feels badly. This is because some of the problems that occur in lupus, such as chronic fatigue and pain, are not tracked by the indices. Instead, these symptoms represent a co-occuring problem called fibromyalgia.

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.
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]

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.

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.

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