B IS FOR BLOODTESTS
If you have Lupus then blood tests become part of your routine, thankfully not on a daily basis but at diagnosis one can certainly expect to be doing this weekly until you have reached the happy state of being in control of the disease and not it being in control of you. Of course, if you are unlucky enough to be particularly poorly and admitted to hospital (and Lupus does do that to people) then your are very likely to achieve the heady heights of being a human pincushion…
I just want to insert a little rider in here to say that I have found that keeping a sense of humour is a great help in dealing with what Lupus throws at you and as a Lupus sufferer myself I reserve the right to be ironic! No offence is intended.
So, you have been feeling rotten and are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and possibly you feel as if no one believes you when you declare that another part of you aches, hurts, is swollen, is red , you can’t cut your food, you find getting out of bed exhausting, you have yet another headache, you feel sick, you are sick etc etc and you yourself are thinking oh hell, I have a) got something terminal or b) morphed into a champion hypochondriac! I have been through both of these feelings.
Eventually your GP starts to put two and two together (if you are lucky- and I was) and suggests a few blood tests including ones to measure your immune system. So these are the ones you can expect to have regularly when Lupus is suspected and later diagnosed. For your information I will throw in here the full name for Lupus (and later will explain a little about the different sorts of Lupus) but for now I am talking about the main one which affects the whole body and it’s systems which is known as SLE for short and for long- SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHAMATOSUS (that’s easy for me to say- ha ha)
ANA test (anti-nuclear antibody) for auto antibodies- a negative results usually suggests you do not have lupus, about 95% of people with lupus are ANA positive, although you may be ANA positive and be perfectly healthy! Making sense yet? No, well this is taken in conjunction with the other tests and case history.
Anti-DNA antibody test- a positive result means lupus is highly likely and is usually raised when lupus is more active. The change in anti -DNA levels helps doctors judge levels of treatment required
Anti -Ro antibody test- a positive result here means you are more likely to have the skin rashes associated with lupus and also may suffer from dry eyes and mouth (Sjorgens syndrome). A positive result here has an impact on pregnancy too.
Antiphospholipid antibody test- positive result for this increases risk of miscarriage
Complement levels test- this refers to proteins in the blood that protect us from infections. They go down when lupus is more active. The main complement levels measured for lupus are C3 and C4
ESR tests (erythocyte sedimentation rate)- measures how quickly the cells in blood settle when in a test tube.This is faster in those with lupus.
Kidney and liver function tests- are carried out regularly as they are two of the organs that can be affected by both the disease and the side effects of drug treatment (double whammy, hardly a win-win situation!)
Full blood counts are also done regularly including haemoglobin to check on the health of the bone marrow.
If your consultant /GP suspects impact on other organs then other tests may be carried out such as CT, MRI and ultrasound for example.
So there you go, a whistle stop explanation of the blood tests we ‘Lupies’ undergo!
Thanks for sticking with me, maybe I will treat you to a shorter post tomorrow!