Diagnostic criteria for systemic lupus erythematosus: has the time come?

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2013 Nov;9(11):687-94. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2013.103. Epub 2013 Jul 9.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multiorgan disease with protean manifestations. Because SLE is uncommon and heterogeneous, its diagnosis can pose a considerable challenge, especially for clinicians with limited expertise of the disease. This is particularly true at the early stages of SLE, when an inadequate number of features to secure the diagnosis might be present, and for patients presenting with uncommon features, which can nonetheless be severe and require prompt treatment. Furthermore, the suboptimal performance of immunological testing in patients referred for possible SLE has been highlighted. As a result, SLE remains largely a clinical diagnosis that is made after excluding alternative diagnoses. Diagnostic criteria can expedite diagnosis and treatment, but are not available for SLE. Thus, SLE classification criteria are often used, but strict adherence to these criteria could delay diagnosis. Therefore, while eagerly awaiting diagnostic criteria for this disease, we propose interim potential solutions to facilitate its diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Tests / methods*
  • Immunologic Tests / trends
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / classification*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / diagnosis*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Rheumatology / methods*
  • Rheumatology / trends
  • Risk Factors
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies


  • Biomarkers