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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

Your doctor may think you have it if you have at least four of these signs:

  • Butterfly rash over your 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 your 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

You may have a change in kidney function if you have proteins, blood, or other substances in your urine.

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_Info/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_and_connective_tissue_disorders/autoimmune_rheumatic_disorders/systemic_lupus_erythematosus_sle.html. Updated February 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 9/4/2018