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How is lupus diagnosed?

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According to Mayo Clinic, no single test diagnoses lupus. A diagnosis of lupus is made through a series of laboratory tests, a physical examination, imaging studies and the signs and symptoms displayed by a patient. Some of the tests a doctor orders to help diagnose lupus include an ESR, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate, an antinuclear antibody test, kidney and liver assessments, urinalysis and a complete blood count.

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Symptoms of lupus can be vague and develop over a long period of time. A doctor looks for physical symptoms of joint inflammation and swelling, and imaging tests may be ordered to see if there is inflammation of internal organs such as the heart or kidneys, notes the Lupus Foundation of America. A family history should also be reviewed, as lupus tends to run in families. Symptoms may be present one day and disappear the next; a family practitioner often sends a patient to a rheumatologist who specializes in lupus.

The American College of Rheumatology states that lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus, is called the "great imitator," as SLE symptoms mimic many other diseases. SLE affects the skin, joints and internal organs, and more women than men are diagnosed with lupus. There is no known cure for lupus, but treatment with NSAIDs, biologic drugs, corticosteroids or a combination of these medications relieve many of the symptoms of lupus.

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