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This information was reviewed and approved by JoAnn Zell (9/1/2017).

How is Lupus Diagnosed?

Lupus can be hard to diagnose, because it has many symptoms that are often mistaken for symptoms of other diseases. Many people have lupus for a while before they find out they have it. If you have symptoms of lupus, tell your doctor right away.

No single test can tell if a person has lupus. Here are some of the ways your doctor can find out if you have lupus. He or she may use any or all of them:

  • Medical history. Tell your doctor about your symptoms and other problems. Keep track of your symptoms by writing them down when they happen. Also, it is a good idea to track how long they last.

  • Family history of lupus or other autoimmune diseases

  • Complete physical exam. Your doctor will look for rashes and other signs that something is wrong.

  • Blood and urine tests. The antinuclear antibody (ANA) test can show if your immune system is more likely to make autoantibodies to lupus. Most people with lupus test positive for ANA. But, a positive ANA does not always mean you have lupus. If you test positive for ANA, your doctor will likely order more tests.

  • Skin or kidney biopsy. A biopsy is a minor surgery to remove a sample of tissue. The tissue is then viewed under a microscope.

The diagnosis of another type of lupus, discoid lupus, can be made when a person only has a patchy, round rash, and no other symptoms. A skin biopsy is helpful in making this diagnosis. People with discoid lupus may or may not progress to systemic lupus erythematosus.


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