The American College of Rheumatology has the following list of symptoms and other measures that doctors can use as a guide to decide if a patient with symptoms has lupus.
- Butterfly-shaped rash over the cheeks – referred to as malar rash
- Red rash with raised round or oval patches – known as discoid rash
- Rash on skin exposed to the sun
- Mouth sores: sores in the mouth or nose lasting from a few days to more than a month
- Arthritis: tenderness and swelling lasting for a few weeks in two or more joints
- Lung or heart inflammation: swelling of the tissue lining the lungs (referred to as pleurisy or pleuritis) or the heart (pericarditis), which can cause chest pain when breathing deeply
- Kidney problem: blood or protein in the urine, or tests that suggest poor kidney function
- Neurologic problem: seizures, strokes or psychosis (a mental health problem)
- Abnormal blood tests such as:
- Low blood cell counts: anemia, low white blood cells, or low platelets
- Positive antinuclear antibodies (ANA) result: antibodies that can cause the body to begin attacking itself that are present in nearly all lupus patients
- Certain abnormal antibodies: anti-double-strand DNA (called anti-dsDNA), anti-Smith (referred to as anti-Sm), or antiphospholipid antibodies
If your doctor suspects you have lupus based on your symptoms, a series of blood tests will be done in order to confirm the diagnosis. The most important blood screening test is ANA. If ANA is negative, you don’t have lupus. However, if ANA is positive, you might have lupus and will need more specific tests. These blood tests include antibodies to anti-dsDNA and anti-Sm, which are specific to the diagnosis of lupus.