Lupus summary

One in 700 women aged 20 to 65 and 1 in 245 American black women will be affected by systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), a chronic inflammatory disorder that occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks organs and tissues (1-2). Lupus means “wolflike”, so named because symptoms of the autoimmune disease include an appearance of a rash over cheeks and the nose (1). Symptoms can also include mouth sores, joint pain, swelling around the lungs and heart, and kidney disease (2). 
Diagnosis and Treatment 
An antinuclear antibody (ANA) test makes it easy to diagnose lupus because almost every lupus patient tests positive (1). Other ways to diagnose are with complete blood count since lupus can commonly cause anemia, erythrocyte sedimintation due to inflammation, kidney and liver assesment, urinalysis that checks for protein and red blood cells in urine, chest X-ray to see inflammation, electrocariogram to identify irregular rhythms or damage in the heart, and a syphilis test because a false-positive result can indicate anti-phospholipid antibodies in the blood (3). Drugs such as NSAIDs, anti-malarial drugs and corticosteroids treat the inflammation itself (4). Other treatments and drugs can also be used for the symptoms (4). New treatments such as stem cell transplants, DHEA and Rituxan may be used in the future (4). 
1. Nowak TJ, Hanfod AG. Pathophysiology: Concepts and applications for health care professionals, 3rd ed. 2004. New York, McGraw-Hill. 
2. Mayo Clinic. Lupus: Definition. Available at:
3. Mayo Clinic. Lupus: Tests and Diagnosis. Available at:
4. Mayo clinic. Lupus: Treatment and Drugs. Available at:

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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