You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or primary care provider, but he or she may refer you to a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory joint conditions (rheumatologist). Because the symptoms of lupus can mimic so many other health problems, you may need patience while waiting for a diagnosis. Your doctor must rule out a number of other illnesses before diagnosing lupus. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in immune system diseases and disorders (rheumatologist) to confirm a diagnosis or to continue treatment.
What you can do
Before your appointment, you may want to write a list of answers to the following questions:
- When did your symptoms begin? Do they come and go?
- Does anything seem to trigger your symptoms?
- Have your parents or siblings had lupus or other autoimmune disorders?
- What medications and supplements do you take regularly?
You may also want to write down questions to ask your doctor, such as:
- What are the possible causes of my symptoms or condition?
- What tests do you recommend?
- If these tests don't pinpoint the cause of my symptoms, what additional tests might I need?
- Are there any treatments or lifestyle changes that might help my symptoms now?
- Do I need to follow any restrictions while we're seeking a diagnosis?
- Should I see a specialist?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may leave time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
Nov. 18, 2014
- Does sun exposure cause you to develop skin rashes?
- Do your fingers become pale, numb or uncomfortable in the cold?
- Do your symptoms include any problems with memory or concentration?
- How much do your symptoms limit your ability to function at school, at work or in personal relationships?
- Have you been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
- Are you pregnant, or do you plan to become pregnant?
- Handout on Health: Systemic lupus erythematosus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Lupus/. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
- Schur PH, et al. Overview of the clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com/#!/browse/book/3-s2.0-C20100683209. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
- Schur PH, et al. Diagnosis and differential diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
- Schur PH, et al. Overview of the therapy and prognosis of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
- Haija AJ, et al. The role and effect of complementary and alternative medicine in systemic lupus erythematosus. Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America. 2011;37:47.
- Lupus. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.