Other tests for lupus depend on the symptoms patients are experiencing, says Kaplan. For example, chest X-rays and echocardiograms may be necessary to investigate fluid around the lungs and the heart. If doctors suspect nephritis is present, the patient may need a kidney biopsy. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to avoid complications, he adds.
Not necessarily. The antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is positive in most people who have lupus, but it also may be positive in many people who are healthy or have another autoimmune disease. Therefore, a positive ANA test alone is not adequate for the diagnosis of lupus. There must be at least three additional clinical features from the list of 11 features for the diagnosis to be made.
A nonspecific laboratory test used as a marker of inflammation. In this test, the speed at which erythrocytes settle out of unclotted blood is measured. Blood to which an anticoagulant has been added is placed in a long, narrow tube, and the distance the red cells fall in 1 hr is the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Normally it is less than 10 mm/hr in men and slightly higher in women. The speed at which the cells settle depends on how many red blood cells clump together. Clumping is increased by the presence of acute-phase proteins released during inflammation.
Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA): A positive ANA test for the presence of these antibodies, which are produced by your immune system, indicates a stimulated immune system. While most people with lupus have a positive ANA test, most people with a positive ANA test do not have lupus. If you have a positive ANA test, more specific antibody testing will most likely be advised.
Fever in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is grounds for hospital admission because of the difficulty of distinguishing a disease flare from infection in these immunocompromised hosts. Patients with SLE are often complement deficient and functionally asplenic; therefore, they are at particular risk for infections with encapsulated organisms. For example, meningococcemia in young females with lupus may be catastrophic.
Next, a doctor will usually prescribe a corticosteroid such as prednisone, which has a variety of unpleasant and dangerous side effects. Long term prednisone therapy can cause muscle wasting and osteoporosis, and those side effects require additional monitoring and medication. If the steroids stop controlling the symptoms, then a host of other serious medications are prescribed that either modulate or suppress the immune system as a whole. Plaquenil and belimumab (Benlysta) are some of the drugs used, and they have very harsh side effects including hair loss, muscle atrophy, blood disorders and increased susceptibility to infections.
Because the symptoms of lupus can mimic so many other health problems, you may need patience while waiting for a diagnosis. Your doctor must rule out a number of other illnesses before diagnosing lupus. You may need to see a number of specialists such as doctors who treat kidney problems (nephrologists), blood disorders (hematologists) or nervous system disorders (neurologists) depending on your symptoms to help with diagnosis and treatment.
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