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Diagnosing Lupus

RM Lupus

Lupus is a condition that arises as a result of an abnormal immune system function. The body creates proteins known as antibodies which aim to protect and fight against bacteria and viruses. However lupus creates something in the body’s immune which mistakenly targets healthy cells and tissue, rather than viruses. The end result creates inflammation, swelling, and pain. As lupus progresses, it attacks the following organs: kidneys, the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and the brain.

Lupus varies from individual to individual, as the disease can affect everyone differently. While some may feel mild symptoms, others can suffer through severe and uncomfortable pain. The signs of lupus also can come in waves, referred to as flares, appearing and disappearing within periods of time. While some may be temporary, other signs can remain permanent; with new symptoms popping up over time. As symptoms are not consistent between lupus sufferers, there are multiple tests to confirm diagnosis. Here’s a bit of an overview:

Complete Blood Count (CBC): This assesses the amount of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, an individual’s body has; as well as measuring your hemoglobin. Those with lupus may have CBC results that confirm anemia, or low white blood cell or platelet counts.

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate: While this blood test isn’t specific to lupus, it is one of the many tests a doctor will perform to diagnose the condition. It helps identify the rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a tube. The test takes approximately an hour to conduct.

Urinalysis: This urine test is performed to review an individual’s protein levels or blood cells, as they relate to urine.

Kidney and Liver: These blood tests are used to assess how an individual’s kidney and liver are functioning; as these are two organs that lupus seems to target.

Antinuclear Antibody (ANA): A positive ANA test means that your may have an over-active immune system, thus meaning you may have lupus. However, this test only does not mean you necessarily have this condition, which is why doctors conduct ANAs with a multitude of other tests to confirm a lupus diagnosis.

X-rays: Again, as your lungs are an organ that is affected and damaged by lupus, x-rays, along with other testing, can help doctors confirm this condition.

Echocardiogram: This provides an insight into any potential issues with your heart. This test uses sound waves to produce real-time images of your beating heart. It can check for problems with your valves and other portions of your heart.

While there is no known cure for lupus, diagnosis is key to help you and your doctor determine the best treatments for this condition. If you feel you might be experiencing any of symptoms of lupus, book a visit with your family physician, as soon as possible.