Lupus is a condition that may cause inflammation, swelling, pain and tissue damage. Patients suffering from lupus may be at a greater risk of kidney, heart, lung and nervous system problems as well. While the condition is not fully understood and research is still being conducted to determine the cause of lupus, patients who think they may have lupus should see a doctor immediately.

Recognizing Symptoms

If you have lupus, chances are you've already seen a doctor. Some patients, however, may notice symptoms consistent with other conditions like arthritis (inflammation, joint paint). Patients suffering from lupus may also suffer from fatigue, which many may attribute to other conditions as well. Your doctor will probably perform a few tests and examine you before making a diagnosis. He or she will also ask you questions about your symptoms, so it's best to prepare before your appointment.

Get it on Paper

Write down everything. Write your symptoms and any personal information including significant life changes or sources of stress and emotions. Also write down any medicines you're currently taking and any diseases or conditions you are suffering from. Don't be afraid to be specific and write down any symptoms you can think of. Write down some questions you have for the doctor as well. Take advantage of your appointment and walk away with a better understanding of lupus. Some common questions include:

• What may be causing my symptoms?
• Are these consistent with lupus, or might they be a sign of another condition?
• Will tests determine if I have lupus?
• What are my treatment options?
• Should I make any lifestyle or environmental changes?
• Is there a doctor who specializes in treating lupus?

Form some of our own questions as well. If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant, ask about certain precautions you should take to achieve a healthy, normal pregnancy and reduce the chances of passing lupus onto the fetus.

Questions from the Doctor

Generally, doctors will diagnose lupus after the presence of a few key symptoms and the presence of certain proteins, called antinuclear antibodies, in your blood. Be prepared, they'll probably ask you a lot of questions. They will probably start by asking you about your symptoms. After you list your symptoms, they might ask when you first noticed your symptoms, how often they flare up, whether they have become more or less severe over time, etc. Being prepared to answer these questions will allow for a more productive appointment and will help the doctor make their diagnosis. Of course, the questions the doctor will ask will depend on various factors. Be sure to open up an effective line of communication with your doctor.