Patient Resources

What is Lupus?

What is Lupus?

Lupus, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, is an autoimmune disease that can potentially affect any organ system. Its main manifestations often include joints, skin and kidneys, and its severity may range from mild to very severe. Lupus is thought to have a significant genetic component, but at the same time environmental factors are thought to play an important role - although which factors and how they contribute to disease is still largely unknown.

Diagnosis of Lupus is based on both laboratory tests and specific clinical symptoms, although in certain situations a biopsy of the affected organ is required. As the diagnostic process is often complex, it is recommended that it would be done by an experienced rheumatologist.

Lupus treatments are largely immunosuppressive. They subdue the over-active immune system, no longer causing excessive inflammation in the affected organ systems. In recent years, new medications have been approved for the treatment of lupus, increasing our arsenal for combating and controlling the disease, allowing patients to continue living their lives to the fullest.

More helpful resources about Lupus can be found in the following websites:

ANA Antibodies

ANA and other antibodies

Antibodies are constantly formed by the immune system against foreign material, usually infectious agents. At times, the immune system malfunctions and starts forming antibodies against particles that are normally present in the person’s body. These self-antibodies are often called autoantibodies, and they are thought to play an important role in autoimmune diseases. Antinuclear antibodies (ANA), or antibodies that target a person’s own nuclear material, are the hallmark of Lupus, and therefore important in Lupus diagnosis. However, the presence of ANA in one’s blood does not mean that the person has Lupus. In fact, 2.5% of the general population are known to have high levels of ANA and most never go on to develop disease. The reasons for the discrepancy between the presence of autoantibodies and emergence of disease are still being studied, but some thoughts include the fact that ANA is a family of antibodies targeting different nuclear particles and some of these antibodies may not be pathogenic; additionally, the immune system has many safety measures in place that prevent occurrence of disease even if autoantibodies are being formed.

It is therefore important to remember that Lupus diagnosis is not based on a positive ANA test, and requires a thorough evaluation of past and current symptoms, as well as imaging studies and pathology reports by an experienced rheumatologist.


Wandstrat A, Carr-Johnson F, Branch V, et al. Autoantibody profiling to identify individuals at risk for systemic lupus erythematosus. J Autoimmun. 2006;27:153–160