Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

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Other laboratory tests are used to monitor the progress of the disease once it has been diagnosed. A complete blood count, urinalysis, blood chemistries, and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test can provide valuable information. Another common test measures the blood level of a group of substances called complement. People with lupus often have increased ESRs and low complement levels, especially during flares of the disease. X rays and other imaging tests can help doctors see the organs affected by SLE.

Diagnostic Tools for Lupus

  • Medical history
  • Complete physical examination
  • Laboratory tests:
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
    • Urinalysis
    • Blood chemistries
    • Complement levels
    • Antinuclear antibody test (ANA)
    • Other autoantibody tests (anti-DNA, anti-Sm, anti-RNP, anti-Ro [SSA], anti-La [SSB])
    • Anticardiolipin antibody test
  • Skin biopsy
  • Kidney biopsy

Diagnosing and treating lupus are often a team effort between the patient and several types of health care professionals. A person with lupus can go to his or her family doctor or internist, or can visit a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in rheumatic diseases (arthritis and other inflammatory disorders, often involving the immune system). Clinical immunologists (doctors specializing in immune system disorders) may also treat people with lupus. As treatment progresses, other professionals often help. These may include nurses, psychologists, social workers, nephrologists (doctors who treat kidney disease), hematologists (doctors specializing in blood disorders), dermatologists (doctors who treat skin disease), and neurologists (doctors specializing in disorders of the nervous system).

Treatment plans are tailored to the individual's needs and may change over time.

The range and effectiveness of treatments for lupus have increased dramatically, giving doctors more choices in how to manage the disease. It is important for the patient to work closely with the doctor and take an active role in managing the disease. Once lupus has been diagnosed, the doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the patient's age, sex, health, symptoms, and lifestyle. Treatment plans are tailored to the individual's needs and may change over time. In developing a treatment plan, the doctor has several goals: to prevent flares, to treat them when they do occur, and to minimize organ damage and complications. The doctor and patient should reevaluate the plan regularly to ensure it is as effective as possible.

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