Lupus Diagnosis

How is lupus diagnosed?

To evaluate if you have lupus, your doctor will review your lupus organ involvement against a specific set of criteria, called SLICC (or they may use the ACR criteria, from the American College of Rheumatology).

There isn’t a single test for lupus, so your doctor will need to gather a lot of information in a variety of ways, starting with your medical history.

Next, your doctor will do an exam and look for some of the physical signs of lupus. He or she may also order a biopsy — a procedure done to remove a small piece of your skin and/or your kidney for examination under a microscope. The doctor will also ask for blood, urine and other tests to see if and how your organs have been affected.

Tests to Make a Lupus Diagnosis

Several tests can help your doctor determine if you have lupus and — if you do have it — its severity. You will usually have the following tests. The details they gather are all pieces of the puzzle that can lead to a lupus diagnosis.

  • Complete blood count (CBC): checks for low counts of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

  • Complement tests: measures the level of complement — proteins in your blood that help destroy foreign substances. Low levels of complement can indicate lupus.

  • Chemistry panel: assesses your kidney and liver functions.

  • Urinalysis and urine protein-to-creatinine ratio: assesses for lupus of the kidneys.

  • Lupus autoantibody tests: tests for anti-dsDNA, anti-Sm, anti-RNP, anti-Ro, anti-La, Coombs and antiphospholipid antibodies.

After a Lupus Diagnosis

Once you’ve been diagnosed with lupus and you know the type you have, you’ll work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan. Your plan will be specific for your needs, considering the type of lupus you have, how serious it is and its effect on your body. This plan will need to be adjusted and changed as your lupus signs change.

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