microRNA-146a (miR-146a) plays an essential role in immune anomalies and organ injury of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) by regulating the disease’s inflammation and complications. Here, we analyzed the expression of miR-146a in SLE and a panel of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, IL-17, and TNF-α). Association between all measured parameters and the disease’s clinical manifestation and response to treatment was monitored. Our study populations were 113 SLE patients and 104 healthy volunteers. miR-146a expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was measured by quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR). The content of the plasma cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-17, and TNF-α) was detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Compared with healthy controls, miR-146a expression was significantly increased ( < 0.05) in lupus patients. The analysis of the receiver operator characteristic curve (ROC) of miR-146a showed 91% sensitivity and 70% specificity. IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-17 cytokines were significantly increased ( < 0.001), while IL-8 and TNF-α were significantly decreased ( < 0.001) in SLE patients against controls. The expression of miR-146a and TNF-α was upregulated considerably in SLE patients with severe disease activity. miR-146a expression was positively correlated with IL-6. Our results pointed to the elevation of miR-146a as a trade marker of SLE patients. Reduction of IL-8 and TNF-α in combination with an elevation of IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-17 might refer to miR-146a's dual effect in controlling inflammation in lupus. Although we shed some light on the role of miR-146a in SLE, further study is recommended to improve our results.