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by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

SLE can be hard to diagnose because:
  • Symptoms are like many other health problems
  • There is no test
  • Each person with SLE may have different signs of it
It may be suspected if a person has at least four of these signs:
  • Butterfly rash over the cheeks and nose—a key sign
  • Rashes that can lead to scarring
  • Skin that gets burned easy in the sun
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Joint swelling, pain, and warmth
  • Inflammation of the lining of the heart
  • Seizures or psychosis
Changes in the blood and kidneys may be found through:

Blood Tests

SLE can cause changes in the blood. They differ from person to person, but may be:
  • Having antinuclear antibodies (ANA) that attack the body's cells
  • Signs of inflammation
  • Unusual findings from a blood cell measurement
  • Signs of substances that are normally filtered by the kidneys

Urine Tests

Proteins, blood, or other substances in the urine may point to a change in kidney function.

References

Guidelines for referral and management of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults. American College of Rheumatology Ad Hoc Committee on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Guidelines. Arthritis Rheum. 1999;42(9):1785-1796.
How is lupus diagnosed? Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/diagnosing-lupus. Accessed September 4, 2018.
Lupus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Lupus/default.asp. Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed August 31, 2018.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115873/Systemic-lupus-erythematosus-SLE . Updated July 20, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal%5Fand%5Fconnective%5Ftissue%5Fdisorders/autoimmune%5Frheumatic%5Fdisorders/systemic%5Flupus%5Ferythematosus%5Fsle.html. Updated February 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.

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