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Specialists in Duke’s high-performing rheumatology program are renowned for their research and treatment of lupus, an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints, kidneys, and skin. We use innovative approaches to manage your lupus.

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About Lupus

Lupus is a complex autoimmune disease, with a variety of symptoms including swollen joints, skin rashes, kidney inflammation, fatigue, fever, and pain. Lupus is best diagnosed and managed by a specialist.  

Our experienced rheumatologists have the skills and tools to make an accurate diagnosis and outline a treatment plan. We work with you and other specialists across Duke to help you manage the effects of lupus on your body’s multiple systems and organs. 

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Lupus Treatments

We strive to help you manage the full spectrum of lupus, allowing you to participate in the activities you enjoy. Your treatments options may include:


Decreases the risk of lupus flares, progressive renal disease, and death from lupus. It is often the first medication we use to treat the disease. Hydroxychloroquine also helps relieve lupus symptoms such as skin rashes, joint pain, and mouth sores.  


This steroid reduces swelling and inflammation. Because prednisone can cause side effects, we work with you to find alternative medications and therapies to decrease the long-term use. 

Immune-Suppressing Drugs

Drugs that lower the body’s immune response can help treat inflammatory lupus symptoms. Depending on the specific medication, these immune-suppressing drugs can help relieve symptoms such as arthritis, rash, and kidney inflammation.

  • Methotrexate
  • Azathioprine (Imuran)
  • Mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept or Myfortic)
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) 
  • Belimumab (Benlysta)

Physical Therapy

Aquatic exercise, biking, walking, and stretching can help relieve the pain and fatigue associated with lupus. Physical activity can decrease the long-term cardiovascular risk associated with lupus. Our physical and occupational therapists can help develop a specific activity plan that meets your needs.

Psychological Counseling

Depression and sleep problems are common among patients with lupus. We strive to find the best therapies to manage your symptoms. We also collaborate closely with therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to develop the best plan for your care.

New Patient Appointment

Tests for Lupus

Lupus is diagnosed by using a combination of laboratory tests, medical history, and a comprehensive physical exam. Your evaluation -- which may require multiple visits -- may include: 

Blood and Urine Tests

Your doctor will order blood and urine tests to check blood counts, identify kidney and liver function, and search for lupus antibodies and markers of lupus activity. People with lupus often have abnormal blood counts and test positive for lupus antibodies.


If necessary, you may be referred to a nephrologist or dermatologist to take a small sample of kidney tissue or skin to confirm your diagnosis.  

Other Tests

You may undergo radiology, ultrasound, or breathing tests to help your doctor better understand and manage your disease. Imaging tests may include X-rays, CT scans, echocardiograms, or pulmonary function tests. 

High-Performing Hospital for Rheumatology in the U.S.

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our rheumatology program is rated as high-performing among the nation's top hospitals, according to US News & World Report for 2024–2025.

Expert Lupus Care

Comprehensive, Coordinated Care
Lupus is a complex disorder that can affect your skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and other internal organs. Our doctors work closely with Duke dermatologistsnephrologists, psychiatrists, and others to manage your care. You have convenient access to care from multiple experts to provide the best chance for a positive outcome.

Specialized Care Before and During Pregnancy
We are one of the few centers in the nation to offer care focused on women with lupus who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. We work in close partnership with Duke’s high-risk obstetric doctors to find safe, effective medications to manage your disease and help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Active Research Program
Our research program includes clinical trials and research designed to improve the lives of people living with lupus. As a Duke Lupus Clinic patient, you may be eligible to participate in a lupus-specific clinical trial that tests new therapies before they are widely available. You can also take part in the Duke Lupus Registry, which collects detailed information about lupus. The goal of the registry is to understand the impact of lupus, identify new knowledge about lupus, and establish best practices in caring for lupus patients. 

Patient Resources

This page was medically reviewed on 07/23/2020 by