Lupus is a difficult disease to diagnose because its symptoms can be vague. And unlike some other diseases, it cannot be diagnosed with a single lab test. However, when certain clinical criteria are met, lab tests can help confirm a diagnosis of lupus. Blood work and other tests can also help monitor the disease and show the effects of treatment.
WebMD takes a look at the uses and limitations of the tests that are commonly used to diagnose and monitor lupus.
Severe lupus may be treated with more aggressive
medicines that suppress the
immune system, such as corticosteroids and
immunosuppressive medicines. Because these medicines can cause serious side
effects of their own, doctors prescribe and monitor them carefully.
Treatment for the skin rash that many people develop with lupus may
include sunscreens, protective clothing, and avoiding sun exposure, as well as
medicines. Some medicines work for some people but not for others, and some
treatments have long-term side effects. More research is needed to determine
which treatments are safest and most effective for skin rash.
lupus medicines, like acetaminophen and prednisone, are considered safe
during pregnancy. Others may not be. You may not be able to stop taking lupus
medicines after becoming pregnant, or you may need to start taking medicines
for a symptom flare. If possible, talk to your doctor
before becoming pregnant about the effect lupus may
have on your pregnancy.
If you have mild disease or symptoms that affect your
quality of life but don't have organ-threatening problems, your doctor may
Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs), sometimes in combination with antimalarial
Medicine treatment for lupus
often involves reaching a balance between preventing severe, possibly
life-threatening organ damage, maintaining an acceptable quality of life, and
minimizing side effects.
Lupus treatment requires frequent
monitoring of disease activity and medicine side effects. Depending on how
you respond to medicines, your doctor may vary the dose and
combinations of medicines until you reach the best possible balance.
It may not be possible to completely eliminate all your symptoms for long
periods of time, especially without medicine side effects. For example, you
may take a dose of medicine that will control lupus enough to prevent organ
damage, but you may still have symptoms such as mild skin rash, muscle aches,
and joint pain. While higher doses of medicine may relieve your symptoms,
using them for a long time increases your risk of serious side effects. Your
doctor will prescribe a dose that controls only the most serious,
life-threatening symptoms and balances the risks of the medicines with the
benefits of controlling your symptoms.
People with lupus can go
remission. If you experience an apparent remission,
your doctor may taper or stop your medicine.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
May 23, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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