UPDATE: Lady Gaga tells Larry King she has “borderline lupus”

Last night on Larry King Live, Lady Gaga, AKA Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, told Larry  “I have tested borderline positive for [lupus]… As of right now, I do not have it, but I have to take good care of myself.”  We recently reported that Lady Gaga had been tested for lupus, but she did not reveal any results. “Gaga” has an aunt who died of lupus, and the disease tends to run in families. “Borderline” probably means that blood work she had done (see below) may have been slightly elevated above normal, or at the upper limit of what is  normal, or that some tests may have been mildly elevated while others were normal.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS):

Diagnosing Lupus

Diagnosing lupus can be difficult. It may take months or even years for doctors to piece together the symptoms to diagnose this complex disease accurately. Making a correct diagnosis of lupus requires knowledge and awareness on the part of the doctor and good communication on the part of the patient. Giving the doctor a complete, accurate medical history (for example, what health problems you have had and for how long) is critical to the process of diagnosis. This information, along with a physical examination and the results of laboratory tests, helps the doctor consider other diseases that may mimic lupus, or determine if you truly have the disease. Reaching a diagnosis may take time as new symptoms appear.

No single test can determine whether a person has lupus, but several laboratory tests may help the doctor to confirm a diagnosis of lupus or rule out other causes for a person’s symptoms. The most useful tests identify certain autoantibodies often present in the blood of people with lupus. For example, the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is commonly used to look for autoantibodies that react against components of the nucleus, or “command center,” of the body’s cells. Most people with lupus test positive for ANA; however, there are a number of other causes of a positive ANA besides lupus, including infections and other autoimmune diseases, and occasionally it is found in healthy people. The ANA test simply provides another clue for the doctor to consider in making a diagnosis. In addition, there are blood tests for individual types of autoantibodies that are more specific to people with lupus, although not all people with lupus test positive for these and not all people with these antibodies have lupus. These antibodies include anti-DNA, anti-Sm, anti-RNP, anti-Ro (SSA), and anti-La (SSB). The doctor may use these antibody tests to help make a diagnosis of lupus.

Some tests are used less frequently but may be helpful if the cause of a person’s symptoms remains unclear. The doctor may order a biopsy of the skin or kidneys if those body systems are affected. Some doctors may order a test for anticardiolipin (or antiphospholipid) antibody. The presence of this antibody may indicate increased risk for blood clotting and increased risk for miscarriage in pregnant women with lupus. Again, all these tests merely serve as tools to give the doctor clues and information in making a diagnosis. The doctor will look at the entire picture—medical history, symptoms, and test results—to determine if a person has lupus.

Diagnostic Tools for Lupus

  • Medical history
  • Complete physical examination
  • Laboratory tests (bloodwork):
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
    • Urinalysis
    • Blood chemistries
    • Complement levels
    • Antinuclear antibody test (ANA)
    • Other autoantibody tests (anti-DNA, anti-Sm, anti-RNP, anti-Ro [SSA], anti‑La [SSB])
    • Anticardiolipin antibody test
  • Skin biopsy
  • Kidney biopsy
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    August 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Hi have recently had a blood test that shows ANA 1.2 rhuematiologist says that this result is borderline. When challenged says its not normal so will retest???? somewhat confused I am.. IS there a phone call i can make only there appears to be a history of this testing in my family… HELP..

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