Home » Chronic Illness » What exactly is Lupus?

What exactly is Lupus?

Lupus Ribbon Clip Art

Since I have started this blog I have had several people  who have inquired about lupus and it’s symptoms.   The easiest way to explain how lupus affects the body is it makes your immune system being to go haywire.  Your immune system will start attacking the different systems of your body.  In my case my immune system  began to attack my kidneys as if it was a foreign object.  It is a lot like how your immune system will kick in to fight a cold. However with lupus, there wasn’t anything wrong with  my kidneys.  My immune system began to attack them and the became very scarred and eventually I was in kidney failure and on dialysis until I had a kidney transplant in May of 2006.  I must take anti-rejection medication for the rest of my life.  These drugs suppress my immune system so that it will not attack my transplanted organ.

Lupus is often a hard disease to diagnosis. It can often take several months or even years to get the official diagnosis for lupus. It is often called “the great mimic” because  many of the symptoms of lupus mimic other illnesses making it hard to diagnose.  Sometimes you may receive a diagnosis for another illness due to having the same symptoms of lupus, or it can go the opposite where you are diagnosed with lupus when it may be  actually another autoimmune disease.

There is 11 criteria for lupus. You may not necessarily have all of the 11 to be diagnosed.  They are the following:

Malar Rash


Rash over the cheeks


Discoid Rash


Red raised patches




Reaction to sunlight, resulting in the development of or increase in skin rash


Oral Ulcers


Ulcers in the nose or mouth, usually painless




Nonerosive arthritis involving two or more peripheral joints (arthritis in which the bones around the joints do not become destroyed)




Pleuritis or pericarditis (inflammation of the lining of the lung or heart)


Renal Disorder


Excessive protein in the urine (greater than 0.5 gm/day or 3+ on test sticks) and/or cellular casts (abnormal elements the urine, derived from red and/or white cells and/or kidney tubule cells)




Seizures (convulsions) and/or psychosis in the absence of drugs or metabolic disturbances which are known to cause such effects




Hemolytic anemia or leukopenia (white blood count below 4,000 cells per cubic millimeter) or lymphopenia (less than 1,500 lymphocytes per cubic millimeter) or thrombocytopenia (less than 100,000 platelets per cubic millimeter). The leukopenia and lymphopenia must be detected on two or more occasions. The thrombocytopenia must be detected in the absence of drugs known to induce it.




Positive test for antinuclear antibodies (ANA) in the absence of drugs known to induce it.




Positive anti-double stranded anti-DNA test, positive anti-Sm test, positive antiphospholipid antibody such as anticardiolipin, or false positive syphilis test (VDRL).

* A positive  ANA (Antinuclear Antibody, a test that determines many autoimmune diseases) is often used to diagnose a patient with lupus due to the high percentage of positive tests of sle (systemic lupus erythematousus) lupus patients.  A negative test could often be a good sign that the patient does not have lupus. Again the ANA plus the patients symptoms are often the marker to tell if a person has lupus or not.

People often think the symptoms of lupus are the same as the 11 criteria for a lupus diagnosis.   The symptoms of lupus as I previously said often are the same as other illnesses.  They are basically a reference to alert you of a possible presence of lupus. If you find that you have many of these symptoms it is time to alert your doctor. Those symptoms are:

Achy or swollen joints

Persistent fever over 100 degrees

Prolonged, extreme fatigue

Skin rashes, including a butterfly shaped rash across the cheeks and nose

Pain in the chest on deep breathing


Excessive protein in the urine

Sensitivity to sun or ultraviolet light

Hair loss

Abnormal blood clotting problems

Fingers turning white and/or blue in the cold


Mouth or nose ulcers lasting longer than two weeks

I have been diagnosed with sle and lupus nephritis.  Lupus nephritis is inflammation of the kidney caused by sle.  I had to take corticosteroids to help with the inflammation of the kidney. I also had to take Cytoxan, a chemotherapy drug, to  suppress my immune system so that it will would not continue to attack my kidneys.  It helped for a while but eventually my kidneys became to scarred and I needed a kidney transplant. I had active lupus for 3 years.  I have been in remission for about 7 years.

I hope this has helped you understand more about the disease.  If you wish to know more there are many websites that may help you out.  You are the expert on your own body. You know if something is wrong.  Continue to fight until you are diagnosed.  It may take several months or years and you may have to see many doctors until you have a diagnosis, but don’t stop until you have one that makes sense.


** The symptoms of lupus as well as the criteria for a lupus diagnosis were found on www.lupus.org.


2 thoughts on “What exactly is Lupus?

  1. Thanks Brandi. Very informative and easy to understand. This is a wonderful blog site. It was great seeing you! Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. I just wanted to mention that lupus can affect every organ in the body and has affected just about every organ in my body. It can be mild, moderate, severe or deadly. It’s different in every patient and even different in every patient at different times.
    We take it as it comes and we have faith that God will keep us.
    Thanks for allowing me the chance to speak.

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