Lupus or Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic and inflammatory autoimmune disorder which often affects the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, skin, joints, blood vessels and nervous system. It’s a condition where the immune system becomes hyperactive and launches attacks on normal, healthy tissues. Lupus basically renders the immune system incapable of distinguishing antigens and healthy tissues. The resulting discomfort includes pain, swelling and tissue damage.
1.5 to 2 million Americans have some form of lupus, according to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). Women are diagnosed 9 times more often than men, but the disease affects both men and women.
As with most autoimmune diseases, medical science has yet to determine exactly what causes lupus. But presently, it’s believed to have both genetic and environmental triggers.
Here are some tests to test for lupus:
- X-ray. Any inflammation in the chest cavity may be detected by an x-ray exam.
- Get a urinalysis. This will be tested for protein levels and any other signs of abnormality.
- Your doctor might order blood clotting studies such as PTT. PTT or Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time uses a blood sample to test for unexplained clotting or bleeding.
- Rheumatoid factor (RF) may also be ordered. This test is important to distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other conditions that may pose similar symptoms. Doctors will check for any joint swelling and see if it’s caused by a physical activity you undertake frequently, or if it’s related to lupus. Lupus can feel arthritis-like for those inflicted.
- An MRI can also be ordered to scan your lungs and the general chest area. If the patient has lupus, the doctors will see various anomalies from the scan such as inflammation of the lining of the lungs and heart, as well as inflammation around the abdomen. Another test will have to be conducted to rule out other conditions, if the MRI scans bring up the above-mentioned abnormalities.
One simple way to test for lupus, or especially if you suspect lupus but are reluctant to get some laboratory tests done, is to visit the Lupus Foundation of America website. This page: lupus.org. This page helps asses if you are at risk for the disease. Your current and past health status will be taken into account.
There are also other routine clinical tests which may suggest that a person has an active systemic disease. These include: routine chemistry panels, routine blood counts, sedimentation rate (ESR) and CRP (C-reactive protein) binding, and serum protein electrophoresis.
It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor and discuss other possible causes of your condition. Together, you can look into parts of your lifestyle and other activities you do which could have contributed to the condition. If the causes of your symptoms remain unexplained, you will be advised to meet with a specialist. It’s important to not be discouraged, and the sufferer must understand that lupus is a condition that is complicated and hard to narrow down.