How is Lupus Diagnosed?

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Overview:

Lupus is a lingering auto-immune disease that can be caused by hormones, genes, environmental factors and microbes. Lupus is a condition in which the body itself is responsible for the infection and breakdown of cells. Lupus has a vast set of symptoms and signs which can be permanent or may disappear silently. A person suffering from Lupus may get a high fever, skin rashes, joint inflammation and Sjogren’s syndrome among others. Lupus is known to cause severe damage to vital organs.

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Lupus
Skin rash on face, an evident example of Lupus

Lupus Diagnosis:

Lupus diagnosis can be a complex process as its wide-ranging symptoms resemble that of many other illnesses. There is no specific lab test for a lupus diagnosis, instead, health care providers carry out a set of tests considering person’s signs and symptoms and rule out other prospective conditions that may have caused them, hence, lupus is diagnosed. Double-stranded DNA (ds-DNA) and Smith Antibody (Sm) are highly unambiguous antibodies associated with Lupus diagnosis.

Medical Staff will inquire you about your medical history and will perform physical examinations of symptoms before jumping to tests for diagnosis of lupus. There are 3 major lab tests that are carried out for lupus’s diagnosis. Lab tests can have limitations in diagnosing lupus, and this aspect makes lupus diagnosis even more complex.

Lupus Symptoms

Blood Tests

A variety of blood tests are carried out for lupus diagnosis as mentioned below;

Anti-Nuclear Antibody (ANA):

It is an antibody directed against the cell’s nuclei, ANA is present in the vast majority of lupus patients. Presence of ANA can help doctors diagnose lupus. This test, however, is unreliable as some lupus patients do not develop ANA while some may have developed ANA due to some other autoimmune disease.

Anti-Phospholipids Antibody (APA):

APA is an antibody directed against the phospholipids of the cell membrane. More than 60% of Lupus patients develop APA, so its presence can be helpful for a lupus diagnosis. Unluckily, positive APA results can also be unreliable for lupus diagnosis as it may have occurred due to some other ailment.

Anti-ds DNA test:

This is a test for an antibody that is concentrating against double-stranded DNA of the mammalian body, the centre of heredity. This test is very specific for lupus diagnosis because up to 90% of Lupus sufferers are known to develop this antibody. Unfortunately, even this test alone can’t be full relied upon as 20-25% patients may not develop this antibody, especially in the early stages. This aspect of blood tests makes Lupus diagnosis nothing less confusing than Houdini’s illusion.

Blood

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR):

This test is carried out for measuring the speed of settling of the blood cells. Cells that are inflated settle faster. Lupus causes inflammation of cells so if ESR is high it may help diagnose lupus. But, just like other blood tests, ESR is not specific for lupus and higher ESR could’ve been caused by infections and viruses.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

It is an associated test of lupus diagnosis in which a sample of blood is taken and its complete cell count is carried out. The test measures the total number of Red blood cells (RBCs), White Blood Cells (WBCs) and Platelets along with measurements for haemoglobin levels. If you have low RBC count then it can be a sign of anaemia which is one of the effects of lupus. The person can be diagnosed from lupus if he has low WBC and Platelets count as they are also one of the symptoms of anaemia. Results of this test are limited because a variety of diseases can cause abnormalities in cell count, which may resemble that of anaemia.

Chemical Evaluation

It is a test to evaluate the chemical working of Kidneys, Liver along with a check on basic chemical levels. This test is very accurate especially in later stages of lupus. Lupus affects the working of kidneys and liver causing a misbalance in chemical levels and this detection can be very helpful in Lupus diagnosis. Inopportunely, this evaluation is of little use in the early stages of lupus, lupus diagnosis remains a gargantuan task.

Urine tests

Apart from a set of blood tests some Urine tests are also very helpful in lupus diagnosis, such as;

Micro albuminuria:

This test is carried out to check for the presence of proteins in urine, even the smallest of amounts may refer to kidney disease. This test is more reliable than chemical evaluation as slightest of dysfunction is pointed out. But all kidney dysfunctions are not due to lupus so the results are not much satisfying.

Urinalysis:

This is urine screening carried out to check for the presence of sugars, WBCs and cellular matters in the urine. If any of such materials are present it means kidney’s Selective Reabsorption process is faulty. This fault may indicate kidney disease which can be an effect of lupus.

Lupus Diagnosis remains a mystery because, as of now, there’s no specific test on planet earth that is specific for it. The best way of defeating Lupus is to stay in constant touch with your doctor and following the medical protocols. Lupus is a scary disease but thankfully it’s not fatal. Lupus Foundation has a vast network around the globe which provides all those who may be suffering from lupus with best possible medical measures.

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