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 ofAugust 21, 2015