What is Lupus (SLE)?
Lupus, also known by the formal name Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic (long-term) autoimmune disorder where the body’s own immune system attacks healthy tissue. This causes inflammation, swelling, and pain in the body, most commonly in joints, skin, and organs.
According to the National Resource Center on Lupus and the Lupus Foundation of America, more than 16,000 new cases of Lupus are confirmed each year in the United States, with an estimated 1.5 million Americans living with Lupus today. Many folks have heard about Lupus from celebrities that have the disease, such as singers Seal, Selena Gomez, and Paula Abdul.
One of the methods used to confirm a Lupus diagnosis is to perform lab tests of the patient’s blood. These tests will screen for the presence of antibodies, specifically anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), and other components of the blood to identify if the immune system is working abnormally.
The cause and risk factors of Lupus are not well understood yet. There is no prevention or cure. Treatment efforts are focused on reducing the patient’s symptoms, especially pain and swelling. Lupus will require a lifetime of care, but celebrities suffering from the disease provide evidence and inspiration that individuals with Lupus can live successful lives.
What are the Risk Factors for Lupus (SLE)?
The following groups appear to be more likely to get Lupus:
- 9 out of 10 Lupus patients are women, mostly aged 15-44
- Certain racial or ethnic groups, including African American, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander
- People who have a family member with Lupus
Due to the weakened immune system, Lupus patients are more susceptible to infections such as respiratory, yeast, urinary tract, herpes, and shingles. People suffering from repeat infections such as this should investigate if they may have an autoimmune disorder.
Interestingly, Lupus patients may also have a false positive test for syphilis; meaning the blood test says a person has syphilis, but they actually do not. So individuals receiving a surprise and unexplainable diagnosis of syphilis should consider Lupus as a possibility.
What Causes Lupus (SLE)?
Doctors do not know what causes Lupus. Leading theories usually involve a complex mix of genes, hormones, and environmental factors.
Theories about the cause of Lupus are primarily based on the risk factors for Lupus (the groups most likely to get the disease).
- With 9 out of 10 Lupus patients being female, it is assumed that hormones such as estrogen play a role.
- With Lupus appearing within families and races, it is assumed there is a genetic component; scientists have narrowed down a list of 50 genes that Lupus patients share, which may play a role.
- But some people at high risk, such as an identical twin, never get the disease, so there is an assumed environmental component; something that triggers the disease to start.
Lupus patients report certain environmental changes trigger their symptoms to flare-up, including increased exposure to sunlight, exercise, and sudden stress. Scientists are researching if these factors play a role in causing Lupus.
What are the Symptoms of Lupus (SLE)?
Lupus is a very challenging disease to recognize and diagnose because no two people have identical symptoms, and its symptoms look like many other diseases. In addition, Lupus symptoms are known to come and go in rounds of flares and temporary remissions. Sometimes the symptoms are overwhelming and sometimes they are barely noticeable. Symptoms can also change over time. It takes six years for the average Lupus patient to finally be diagnosed with the disease.
The most common symptoms of Lupus are:
- Skin rashes; especially a butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose
- Pain or swelling in the joints (arthritis)
- Swelling in the feet and the eye area
- Extreme fatigue
- Sjogren's syndrome: dryness of mouth, eyes, and other body parts that self-lubricate
- Low fevers
- Sensitivity to sunlight or fluorescent light
- Chest pain when deeply breathing
- Hair loss
- Sores in the mouth and nose
- Fingers and toes turning white/blue and feeling numb
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, 65% of people with Lupus say having chronic pain is the worst part of the disease. 76% of Lupus patients have to cut back on social activities due to extreme fatigue. And 89% of Lupus patients can no longer work full-time jobs due to complications from Lupus.
How is Lupus (SLE) Confirmed?
Lupus is a challenging disease to diagnose, and confirming the disease may involve a complicated review of symptoms and family history. However, there are blood tests that can help indicate that the body is suffering from a disease such as Lupus.
The most common blood tests for Lupus search for Anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), which are found in almost all Lupus patients
- ANA Pattern
- ANA Screen, IFA
- Anti-Nuclear Ab Titer
And searching for other antibodies that are common with autoimmune disorders
Other tests look at the blood’s ability to clot and look at red blood cells and white blood cells:
As well as the body's ability to attack infections:
There is no single test that can confirm Lupus, which is why testing for Lupus requires so many different blood tests. However, seeing any of the biomarkers out of range can certainly hint at Lupus. These test results can then be combined with physical symptoms and family history to make a Lupus diagnosis.
To simplify SLE testing and ensure that crucial biomarkers are analyzed, Ulta Lab Tests offers the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Comprehensive Diagnostic Panel that tests for the following 12 key biomarkers:
1. ANA Pattern
2. ANA Screen, IFA
3. Anti-Nuclear Ab Titer
4. Chromatin (Nucleosomal)
5. Complement Component C3c
6. Complement Component C4c
7. Complement, Total (Ch50)
8. Dna (Ds) Antibody
9. Rnp Antibody
10. Sjogren's Antibody (Ss-A)
11. Sjogren's Antibody (Ss-B)
12. Sm Antibody
What Happens if Lupus (SLE) Goes Untreated?
If left untreated, Lupus patients can expect inflammation to continue to worsen until major organs are impacted. The most serious consequences of Lupus are:
- Inflammation of the kidneys, eventually leads to kidney failure and/or the need for dialysis and/or kidney transplant.
- Inflammation of the nervous system causes memory problems, headaches, and strokes
- Inflammation of blood vessels in the brain causing fevers, seizures, and changes to behavior
- Inflammation of the heart and arteries leading to heart attack
- Inflammation of the skin causing rashes, ulcers, and sores
The damage from Lupus can accrue over time. Those suffering from severe symptoms at the start of the disease, or suffering severe symptoms for more than two years, or have four or more severe episodes of the disease, are more likely to suffer organ damage.
Research is also showing that even brief periods where symptoms are reduced can be enough to reduce the accrued damage to organs. This demonstrates the importance of early diagnosis and treating Lupus effectively.
How is a Lupus (SLE) Treated?
There is currently no way to prevent or cure Lupus (SLE). Treatment efforts are focused on relieving symptoms, controlling the immune system, and slowing down the worsening of inflammation. Unfortunately, due to the wide variety of symptoms of Lupus, and the fact symptoms can change over time, a Lupus patient may spend many years trying to find the right combination of treatments to relieve their symptoms.
Examples of medications commonly used to treat Lupus symptoms include:
- Anti-inflammatories to help with pain and swelling
- Antimalarials to control skin rashes
- Anticoagulants for blood clots
- Immunosuppressives and biologics to help control the immune system
- Steroids to help inflammation
Lupus patients should also minimize the environmental factors that trigger their symptoms to flare, such as exposure to sunlight, exercise, and sudden stresses.
Benefits of Using Ulta Lab Tests for Lupus (SLE) Testing
One of the primary methods of diagnosing SLE Lupus is through blood tests that detect unusual antibodies in the blood, especially antinuclear antibodies (ANA). Because Lupus is so difficult to diagnose, multiple blood tests may be needed to look at a wide range of biomarkers. Ulta Lab Tests has individual panels of SLE blood tests available for purchase today.
Ulta Lab Tests provide comprehensive and affordable laboratory testing and health screening services directly to consumers. Our mission is to enable individual consumers across America to take control of their healthcare by having direct access to the quality lab tests of their choice. Consumers are now able to be proactive in the early detection and prevention of disease and do so with complete control of their healthcare costs.
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We offer tests that are highly accurate and reliable so you can make informed decisions about your health.
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