Lupus: Criteria for Diagnosis

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Topic Overview

The following criteria are used to distinguish lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) from other autoimmune and rheumatic diseases.

A person with 4 of these 11 conditions can be classified as having lupus. These conditions may be present all at once, or they may appear in succession over a period of time.footnote 1

  • Butterfly (malar) rash on cheeks
  • Rash on face, arms, neck, torso (discoid rash)
  • Skin rashes that result from exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light (photosensitivity)
  • Mouth or nasal sores (ulcers), usually painless
  • Joint swelling, stiffness, pain involving two or more joints (arthritis)
  • Inflammation of the membranes surrounding the lungs (pleuritis) or heart (pericarditis)
  • Abnormalities in urine, such as increased protein or clumps of red blood cells or kidney cells, called cell casts
  • Nervous system problems, such as seizures or psychosis, without known cause
  • Problems with the blood, such as reduced numbers of red blood cells (anemia), platelets, or white blood cells
  • Laboratory tests showing increased autoimmune activity (antibodies against normal tissue)
  • Positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) test

Related Information



    1. Crow MK (2016). Systemic lupus erythematosus. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1769–1777. Philadelphia: Saunders.


    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
    Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
    E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerNancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology

    Current as ofMay 11, 2016