If you have been dealing with hair loss, on and off fevers, rashes, muscle pain, and general fatigue, your doctor may start to suspect that you have lupus. This is an autoimmune condition, and as such, your doctor will probably refer you to a rheumatologist — a doctor who specializes in diagnosing autoimmune diseases — for further testing. What tests can you expect your rheumatologist to call for or administer? Take a look.

Blood Cell Counts

One of the first tests your rheumatologist will call for will probably be a basic blood cell count. They'll count the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in your blood. Low counts of these blood cell types could be an indication of lupus. The low white blood cell count is one reason why many people with lupus are prone to frequent infections. The low red blood cell count can explain why patients with lupus often feel tired and exhausted. And low platelet levels explain why people with lupus are prone to extensive bleeding. Blood count levels alone cannot diagnose lupus, but they are one big indicator.

Antinuclear Antibodies Test

This is perhaps the most important and reliable test for lupus, although most doctors still will not diagnose lupus based on the results of this test alone. (They'll also consider blood counts and family history and symptoms.) 

This test measures the levels of certain antibodies in the blood. In patients with lupus, there are often elevated levels of these antibodies, and it is the antibodies that directly attack the body's tissues and lead to the lupus symptoms. The antinuclear antibodies test is just another blood test, and it will probably be conducted at the same time as your blood count test, so you'll only have blood drawn once.

Urine Tests

Your rheumatologist will probably also ask for a urine sample. This is mostly to measure the level of protein in your urine. In many, although not all, cases of lupus, the immune system attacks the kidneys, which causes protein levels in the urine to rise. A high urine protein level in combination with low blood cell counts and the presence of antinuclear antibodies can lead to a pretty certain lupus diagnosis.

If your doctor is referring you to a rheumatologist, like Sarasota Arthritis Center, for a lupus diagnosis, there is no reason for worry. These tests are simple and painless, and the results can shed a lot of light on what's going on inside your body.