Getting tested for and info about lupus?

Originally Published: October 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 14, 2010
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Alice,

Is there free testing for diseases like lupus at Columbia? It is in my family and I'm scared that I may have it.

Thanks,
Feeling Crummy

Dear Feeling Crummy,

Yes, there are ways to get tested for lupus if you are a Columbia student. Lupus is diagnosed by blood tests or by a skin biopsy, both designed to test for antibodies that are present when the disease is active.

Lupus Erythematosus is a chronic illness that causes inflammation of the connective tissue. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system (in the form of synthesized autoantibodies) attacks the connective tissue as if it were foreign matter, causing inflammation. Lupus mainly affects women ages 18 to 35.

Since you mentioned it is in your family, it's a good idea to get tested, as lupus may be hereditary. Lupus may also be linked to hormonal interactions, or it may be triggered by a viral infection. Some lupus symptoms can be induced by certain medications, though this occurs primarily in the elderly population.

There are two types of lupus. The more common form presents as a red, circular thickened area of skin that may leave a scar. Common placement of this rash is on the face, behind the ears, or on the scalp. The less common form of lupus presents as a red, blotchy butterfly shaped rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, with no scarring. In addition to the rash, other symptoms include nausea, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, and joint pain. Conditions such as anemia, arthritis, inflammation of the lining of the lungs, and neurological or psychiatric problems may also result from lupus.

There is no cure for lupus, however treatment is available to alleviate some of the symptoms and reduce inflammation. Treatment can prove successful, but if the kidneys become severely affected by lupus, it can be a life-threatening condition.

If you are concerned that you may have lupus and are a Columbia student, it is a good idea to talk to a provider in Primary Care at Health Services. S/he can review your concerns and determine whether testing and/or a referral to a specialist is needed. To make an appointment for Primary Care, call x4-2284 or login to Open Communicator. For more information about Lupus check out The Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. Best of luck finding the information you need,

Alice