Laboratory tests

Blood and urine tests may include:
  • Complete blood count. This test measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets as well as the amount of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. Results may indicate you have anemia, which commonly occurs in lupus. A low white blood cell or platelet count may occur in lupus as well.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. This blood test determines the rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a tube in an hour. A faster than normal rate may indicate a systemic disease, such as lupus. The sedimentation rate isn't specific for any one disease. It may be elevated if you have lupus, another inflammatory condition, cancer or an infection.
  • Kidney and liver assessment. Blood tests can assess how well your kidneys and liver are functioning. Lupus can affect these organs.
  • Urinalysis. An examination of a sample of your urine may show an increased protein level or red blood cells in the urine, which may occur if lupus has affected your kidneys.
  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test. A positive test for the presence of these antibodies produced by your immune system indicates a stimulated immune system. While most people with lupus have a positive ANA test, most people with a positive ANA do not have lupus. If you test positive for ANA, your doctor may advise more-specific antibody testing.

Imaging tests

If your doctor suspects that lupus is affecting your lungs or heart, he or she may suggest:
  • Chest X-ray. An image of your chest may reveal abnormal shadows that suggest fluid or inflammation in your lungs.
  • Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to produce real-time images of your beating heart. It can check for problems with your valves and other portions of your heart.

Biopsy

Lupus can harm your kidneys in many different ways and treatments can vary, depending on the type of damage that occurs. In some cases, it's necessary to test a small sample of kidney tissue to determine what the best treatment might be. The sample can be obtained with a needle, or through a small incision.