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How lupus is diagnosed

If you believe you have lupus symptoms, your first point of call is to see a doctor, rather than try to self-diagnose this condition, as the earlier it is caught, the easier it is to treat.

Lupus can sometimes be difficult to get a diagnosis for, because many of the symptoms are similar to those that show up with other conditions. Also, usually, no two cases of lupus are the same, so symptoms will vary from person to person.

If lupus is suspected by a doctor, they can refer you to a specialist for further tests and investigations to confirm a diagnosis.

Getting a lupus diagnosis is important in order to rule out other health conditions and to make sure that you get the treatment and support that you need, so if you think you may be at risk, speak to a doctor.

Lupus tests

If it is suspected that you have lupus, you may be asked to take a number of different blood tests in order to help confirm your diagnosis. Some of the blood tests that can be carried out include:

  • Anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test - this checks to see if a certain antibody is in your blood, which is present in most people with lupus.
  • Anti- double-stranded DNA test - this checks the level of another antibody in the blood, which is also present in a lot of people who have lupus. During flare ups, the level of this antibody increases.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate test (ESR) - this can determine if there is inflammation in your body.
  • Complement level test - this checks your blood for a chemical that helps your immune system protect itself against infection. During flare ups, the level of this chemical decreases.

Other tests may include an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan, or X-ray to check if your heart, kidneys and other organs have been affected by lupus.

Regular reviews are important if you have been diagnosed with lupus. They can be used to check your current condition, how it is affecting your body and to check if other conditions are developing, or are likely to develop, such as kidney problems (which can be checked with a urine test). Your medication can also be amended based on the results, if needed.

All of the tests we have mentioned above, plus others, may also be used to monitor your lupus once you have been diagnosed.