How is lupus fog diagnosed?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Although there is no single test to confirm a diagnosis, a combination of many blood tests and biopsy of affected tissue can point to lupus. Steroids are the mainstay of treatments, but there are other effective strategies depending on where in the body the attacks take place. Treatments focus on reducing flare-ups, inflammation, and pain.
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means your immune system attacks your own body's own tissues. Lupus affects each person differently-you may experience a totally different set of symptoms from someone else suffering from the disease.

Because each person responds to lupus differently, it can take your doctor some time to actually make a diagnosis.
Your doctor might suspect that you have lupus based on your symptoms, but will need to monitor your symptoms, signs and lab tests over time to make a firm diagnosis.

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) established that four or more of the following conditions must be present for your doctor to have reasonable certainty you have lupus:
  • Malar rash - A butterfly shaped rash on your face
  • Discoid rash - A coin-shaped rash that appears on skin exposed to the sun
  • Photosensitivity - You develop a rash after sun exposure
  • Oral or nasal ulcers - Ulcers in your mouth or nose Arthritis in multiple joints
  • Serositis - Inflammation of the lining around the lungs or heart
  • Kidney disease - This is indicated by protein or casts in your urine
  • Neurological disorders -This can include seizures or psychosis
  • Blood disorders - These may include hemolytic anemia, leukopenia, or lymphopenia
Other signs that are common but are not included in the classification criteria are:
Hair loss or breaking, especially around the forehead Raynaud's phenomenon - This is when your fingertips change color in cold temperatures

Although no one symptom qualifies you as having lupus, there are certain clinical techniques your doctor can use to narrow down the diagnosis. For example, a test for antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) in the blood is probably the first tool your doctor may use. A positive ANA test does not necessarily mean that you have lupus; in fact, one out of five healthy women has a positive ANA. However, a negative ANA test greatly reduces the suspicion.

Your doctor will also need to rule out other illnesses with symptoms similar to lupus. These illnesses include:
Rheumatoid arthritis Systemic sclerosis, or scleroderma Vasculitis Dermatomyositis Arthritis caused by a drug or virus
Lupus fog may be assessed with blood testing in search of specific autoantibodies that are associated with this condition in some individuals. Psychological testing can confirm that there is an organic cause for the condition. Finally, there may be imaging such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as testing of brain function with electroencephalogram (EEG), to further aid diagnosis.

Certain neurological exams can determine if you are having difficulty with cognition and have lupus fog. You may be given blood tests, spinal fluid analysis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), uses magnetic signals to create image "slices" of the human body, electroencephalogram (EEG), record of the tiny electrical impulses produced by the brain's activity, or brain tomography (to visualize a specific area of the brain) to find out more. These exams can also determine if you do, in fact, have lupus fog and not a more serious problem such as stroke.

Continue Learning about Lupus



Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease, which occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own organs and tissues. Lupus is more common in women, blacks, Hispanics and Asians and often is diagnosed between the ages of 15 an...

d 40. Learn more about Lupus from our experts.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.