Pediatric Lupus

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Children with lupus need ongoing care to keep the disease in check and prevent organ damage. Duke pediatric rheumatologists have years of experience managing lupus in children. Our expertise allows us to differentiate the seemingly vague symptoms of lupus from those of other diseases. Our work with specialists throughout Duke helps prevent or minimize the effects that complications of lupus can have on your child's growth and development. Our goal is to put your child's disease into remission.

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Lupus Treatments

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that may appear in children, especially in the adolescent and teen years. It can cause a variety of mild to severe symptoms. Diagnosing lupus early is important, as prompt treatment can reduce symptoms and prevent the chronic inflammation that can damage the kidneys, lungs, and other organs.

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Over-the-counter or prescription-strength NSAIDS, including ibuprofen and naproxen, help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.


Plaquenil and other malaria drugs also reduce lupus flare-ups. They are generally safe to use long-term, with proper monitoring to manage their side effects.


Strong steroid medications such as prednisone can suppress the entire immune system and may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.

Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatics

Methotrexate and other steroid-sparing drugs offer the benefits of corticosteroids with fewer side effects but can take longer to work. Over time, they help slow or stop the progression of lupus.


Certain biologics, including Benlysta (belimumab), have shown promise in treating pediatric lupus. They suppress targeted parts of the immune system. 

Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG)

IVIG is a blood product containing antibodies from many healthy donors. It can help replenish the immune system and may benefit some children with lupus.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Depending on the extent of your child’s symptoms, he or she may need physical or occupational therapy to strengthen muscles, improve mobility, or learn more efficient ways to perform everyday tasks.

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Tests for Pediatric Lupus

We use the following tests to distinguish lupus from other medical conditions.

Lab Tests

Blood and urine tests indicate the presence of inflammation in the body and help in assessing lupus disease activity. They can also detect whether something is wrong with a kidney or another organ.

X-Ray, CT, or MRI

These help your doctor rule out tumors, infections, or other problems. They may also show whether lupus has harmed specific organs.


A small sample of organ or tissue may be removed and examined for inflammation or tissue damage.

Best Children's Hospital in NC

Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties.

Why Choose Duke

Your Child's Team
Your child’s team works to keep your child’s development as healthy as possible. The team may include specialists such as pediatric dermatologists, nephrologists, neurologists, cardiologists, and pulmonologists as well as specialized nurses and social workers. 

We Make Specialist Appointments as Convenient as Possible
Often, appointments with nephrology and rheumatology can be scheduled in a single visit.

Monthly Support Groups
We offer monthly support groups for pediatric lupus patients that combine lunch with age-appropriate educational seminars. These allow your child to learn more about their condition, ask questions, and interact with other children who are also learning to live with lupus. 

We Understand the Challenges
We offer services to keep your child in school even when they’re actively receiving treatment. Our dedicated social worker can coordinate accommodations that help your child keep up with their schoolwork.

Transition to Adult Care
Lupus is a lifelong disease. When your child is ready to begin seeing an adult rheumatologist, we assist in the transition. This ensures there is no interruption in care, which could lead to a disease flare-up.

This page was medically reviewed on 05/23/2018 by