Do I Have Lupus?
What is Lupus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus, also called lupus or SLE, is considered an autoimmune condition that attacks multiple healthy cells in the body. Autoimmunity is simply when the body's white blood cells mistaken normal healthy cells as foreign invaders similar to a bacteria or virus. In lupus, this attack creates long-term inflammation which creates injury. Any cells can be attacked with lupus, however, the most common are the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and nervous system.
How Do I Know if I Have Lupus?
It is standard practice to wait for symptoms of lupus to appear before testing for it. Common symptoms are rashes, fatigue, unexplained fever, loss of hair, and unusual cold fingers and toes. However, studies show that tests for Lupus show positive years before symptoms every start1. In families with a history of lupus, It has become common for those who do not have symptoms to get tested for Lupus.
A hallmark of autoimmune conditions like lupus are symptom flares. This means their are cycles of major symptoms followed by relief. These flares can sometimes make testing for lupus difficult since antibodies may be "normal" during a portion of the cycle.
Tests For Lupus
A simple blood test can be run to test for lupus. The two most common tests for Lupus are the Antinuclear Antibody (ANA Antibody) and the Anti-Double Stranded DNA Antibody (dsDNA) (see our test for Lupus below). If you test positive for lupus, other tests like our TH1/TH2 panel and the CD4/CD8 ratio panel, and vitamin D test may help determine triggers that aggravate the attack.
If tests for lupus are negative, it may be useful to get tested several times due to false negatives. They occur because the test may have be done at the bottom of a lupus flare where antibodies can be "normal".
1N Engl J Med 2003; 349:1499-1500October 16, 2003