Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How do you know if someone has lupus?"
My grandma had lupus and now I'm afraid my brother has it too. He is always saying that his muscles hurt in different places and his skin feels funny/sensitive in spots. Should he get tested for lupus? What are the symptoms?
Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematous or SLE, is a relatively common autoimmune disorder. It can have a wide variety of symptoms or in some cases be relatively asymptomatic. That being said, it is an extremely serious condition that requires evaluation and potential treatment as it can otherwise lead to damage of multiple organs. I would recommend that your brother have a formal evaluation by his primary care doctor. Lupus can result in many symptoms. The major symptoms that people describe are sun sensitivity, oral ulcers, skin ulceration or rash, chest pain, changes in thinking and joint pain. Muscle pain is a more rare symptom than joint pain. A classic rash over the nose and face (known as a malar rash) is sometimes seen. There are many abnormalities on testing that your doctor can look for. Changes in kidney function, changes in blood cells and changes in inflammation markers is often seen. The best lab test to diagnosis lupus is a set of antibodies. These are known as the Anti double stranded DNA and the Anti Smith antibodies. Keep in mind that these alone don't make the diagnosis, but if they are positive with the other symptoms and findings mentioned above -- this may be consistent with lupus. Have your brother see his doctor for more information.
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