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



  1. Hahn BH (2012). Systemic lupus erythematosus. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2724–2735. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology

Current as ofSeptember 9, 2014