Confirming a diagnosis of lupus is tricky because the symptoms can vary over time and from person to person and often overlap with other disorders. Unfortunately there is no single test to diagnose the disease, but the American College of Rheumatology has established a set of common criteria that may indicate that lupus is present.
In general, if someone has at least one symptom and a positive test for the antinuclear antibody—an antibody that indicates a stimulated immune system—the person may have lupus. There is one exception: if a kidney biopsy shows lupus it is considered a definitive diagnosis even in the absence of other symptoms.
Your doctor may use several tests and steps to diagnosis lupus, a process that can take months or years. Your doctor may perform the following to diagnosis lupus:
- Medical history
- Complete exam
- Blood tests
- Antinuclear Antibody
- Skin biopsy
- Kidney biopsy
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/lupus.htm.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Lupus/do_i_have_lupus.asp.