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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus


Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation, pain and swelling. A healthy immune system protects your child from infection by attacking invaders such as viruses or other pathogens. In children with lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own cells and tissue, causing inflammation. Lupus can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organs. It is more common in adolescent girls than boys. Lupus rarely affects children under 5 years of age.

At Children’s Health℠, we work closely with both you and your primary care provider so that everyone involved has the information they need to create the best outcomes for your child.


Symptoms of lupus may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Painful or swollen joints
  • A butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose
  • Fever
  • Hair loss
  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Fever
  • Mouth sores
  • Blood clots
Tests & Diagnosis

There are several tests to diagnose lupus in children. A doctor will go over your child's medical history and perform a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may also perform one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests: Antinuclear antibody (ANA) and complete blood count (CBC)
  • Urine tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Kidney biopsy, in which a small amount of tissue is removed from the kidney using a needle. The tissue is then examined under a microscope

Not every child needs all these tests. Your physician will tell you exactly what the next steps are. Each year, the specialists at Children’s Health see more than 1,000 pediatric patients for lupus and other rheumatic disorders. We have the skills and resources necessary to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for your child too.


The severity of your child’s lupus and knowing which organs are affected will determine the treatment. Although there is no cure for lupus, it can usually be successfully controlled with medications and lifestyle changes. Your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

Medications: Your child may need one or more of the following medications to treat her lupus:

  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone help reduce inflammation
  • Immunosuppressant drugs including azathioprine stop the immune system from attacking healthy cells and tissue
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen or naproxen can help with pain

Lifestyle changes: Your child can do several things to help minimize the severity of a lupus flare-up, including

  • Wearing protective clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen when outdoors
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly

Children’s Health is part of the largest and longest established multi-specialty clinic for children with rheumatic diseases in the region. In our rheumatology clinic, dedicated health care professionals help patients and their families manage diseases like lupus.

Children’s Health uses a multidisciplinary approach to caring for your child. This allows us to offer our patients care from multiple specialists and experts, in a single appointment, at one location. If your child has symptoms of a rheumatic disorder such as lupus, contact us. We provide the comprehensive and individualized care necessary to put your child back on the path to a healthy life. 


For more information about Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, refer to the following resources:

This page offers answers to some basic questions about children and lupus, with links to a lot of other information about the disease.
S.L.E. Lupus Foundation

Here is a more detailed overview with information about how lupus is diagnosed and treated in children.
American College of Rheumatology

This page offers detailed information including tips for helping your child deal with the emotional impact of a lupus diagnosis.
Molly’s Fund

This page offers ideas for helping a child with lupus take control of her own care as she gets older.
Lupus Foundation of America


What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a disease that is characterized by chronic (long-term) inflammation, pain, and swelling.

What causes lupus?

The exact cause of lupus is unknown. It is an autoimmune disorder, a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy organs or tissue (in this case, the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs).

How do I know if my child has lupus?

If your child has symptoms of lupus, you should have her evaluated by a physician. Symptoms of lupus may include pain, joint swelling, fatigue, painful or swollen joints, and a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose; fever, hair loss, chest pain when taking a deep breath, sensitivity to sunlight, fever, mouth sores, and blood clots.

What tests are used to diagnose lupus?

Tests used to diagnose lupus include blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, and kidney biopsy.

How is lupus treated?

Treatments for lupus may include medications and lifestyle changes.

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