Difficulties in Diagnosing Lupus
Author: Groshan Fabiola
Due to its polyvalent character and its intrinsic nature (lupus is triggered and augmented by severe immune system impairments), lupus is very difficult to diagnose accurately and promptly. In some cases, the complexity of lupus renders doctors unable to reveal its presence in time, the unspecific symptoms produced by the autoimmune disease often being misleading in the process of establishing the correct diagnosis. It may take months or even years to confirm the diagnosis received by patients with suspected lupus. The process of diagnosing lupus can be challenging even for the most experienced doctors. Patients can also influence the duration of the process of diagnosis, as doctors often rely on symptomatic reports apart from common laboratory analyses and physical examinations. The challenging process of diagnosing lupus can only be accelerated and facilitated by good doctor-patient cooperation.
Although at present there aren’t any specific tests that can reveal the presence of lupus, the existing laboratory tests can still help doctors decide upon the correct diagnosis. The most commonly used method of diagnosing patients with suspected lupus consists in looking for the presence of auto-antibodies in blood samples. The antinuclear antibody test (ANA test) is nowadays extensively used to detect the presence of auto-antibodies in patients with suspected lupus. However, the main problem with the ANA test is that it isn’t 100 percent accurate. For instance, a positive result for the ANA test may be influenced by factors such as past infections, chronic diseases or prolonged treatments with certain medications and not by the actual presence of lupus. In order to confirm the presumptive diagnosis, doctors have to rely on various other tests, such as anti-DNA, anti-RPN, anti-Ro, anti-La, or anti-Sm antibody tests.
When these previously mentioned blood tests along with clinical examinations and the patient’s symptomatic report are inconclusive for establishing the correct diagnosis, doctors may decide to perform biopsies of the skin or kidneys in order to reveal clear evidence of lupus. Additional tests often include the test for syphilis, as lupus sufferers commonly have a series of antibodies that generally occur in patients with syphilis. Thus, a falsely positive result for the syphilis test is also considered to be an indicator for lupus. Doctors have to rely on a wide range of tests in order to analyze the disease from different angles and find the accurate diagnosis. Without multiple medical investigations and elaborate research, lupus is virtually impossible to diagnose properly.
Once lupus has been appropriately diagnosed, doctors still depend on a series of tests in order to identify the actual type of lupus and its rate of progression. In order to gather the required medical information, doctors may choose to perform the following tests: complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry tests, erythrocyte sedimentation tests and urinalysis. After the results of these tests are properly interpreted, doctors can finally choose the appropriate course of medications. Due to the fact that the process of diagnosing lupus is time consuming, patients may have developed serious complications by the time they receive the appropriate medical treatment. Despite their limited relevancy, the existing procedures of diagnosis are the only means of revealing signs of lupus in patients. Medical scientists are hoping to find more efficient methods of diagnosing lupus in the near future, methods that can simplify the process of diagnosis and allow prompt medical intervention.
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