The most common symptoms, affecting more than half of those with lupus include:
arthralgia (joint pain)
arthritis (joint warmth, swelling and redness)
unexplained fever (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
extended or severe fatigue
anemia (abnormally low red blood cell count)
alopecia (hair loss)
Less common symptoms include:
pleurisy (chest pain when breathing deeply, caused by inflammation of the lungs' lining)
photosensitivity rashes that appear after exposure to sunlight
baldness on areas of the scalp
Raynaud's syndrome (fingers turning white or blue in the cold)
seizures, psychosis and other neuropsychiatric problems
mouth or nose ulcers
pericarditis (chest pain caused by inflammation of the heart lining)
phlebitis (blood clots)
Consult a health care professional as soon as possible if you have any of the symptoms listed above, whether singly or in combination. Multiple symptoms indicate a stronger likelihood that lupus is the culprit, and a rheumatologist should evaluate you.
An evaluation for lupus consists of a thorough medical history, a physical examination and laboratory tests.
An initial diagnostic screening usually includes a complete blood count, liver and kidney tests, blood tests for autoantibodies (increased antibodies that target healthy issues and are an indicator of autoimmune disease), skin biopsy, urinalysis (to detect possible kidney disease), blood chemistry work-up and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (a measure of inflammation).
The antinuclear antibody (ANA) test detects autoantibodies that react against components of the nucleus, or "command center," of your own cells. A positive test indicates a stimulated immune system, which is common in people with lupus. However, ANA is also positive for other conditions, such as systemic sclerosis, mixed connective tissue disease and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, people without such disorders could have a positive ANA test. A positive ANA is common in people over 50.
Other autoantibody tests include anti-DNA, anti-Sm, anti-RNP, anti-Ro (SSA) and anti-La (SSB). Anticardiolipin or other antiphospholipid tests may indicate risk for a blood clotting disorder. In some cases, specialized diagnostic tests for the eyes, heart lungs or brain, or a biopsy of the skin or kidney may be performed.
Clearly, diagnosing lupus is a complex matter. If there is a reasonable likelihood that you have lupus, you will need a referral to a rheumatologist.
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Keywords: lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus, sle, symptoms, autoantibodies, ana