The most common method to test for lupus is by performing complete blood count (CBC) labs and antinuclear antibody tests (ANA). Without insurance, CBC labs and ANA can cost between $169 and $722. The second testing method for lupus involves performing a skin or kidney biopsy, which can cost between $1,000 and $4,340 without insurance
What is the Cost of Testing for Lupus without Insurance?
Depending on what testing method or combination of methods your provider uses to diagnose lupus, the cost of care without insurance can be expensive. The chart below outlines testing costs, from initial primary care visit and physical exam to skin or kidney biopsy.
Cost of Lupus Testing Without Insurance
|Type of Testing||Cost|
|Primary Care Visit||$150-$300|
|Physical Exam||$50 - $200|
|Complete Blood Count (CBC)||$140 - $622|
|Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA)||$29.00 - $159.00|
|Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Test||$400.00 - $770.00|
|Skin Biopsy||$150 - $1,000|
|Kidney Biopsy||$1,824 - $4,340|
Source: Cost Helper
Testing for Lupus
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose as the signs and symptoms might be related to another disease or illness. However, suppose you are experiencing any symptoms or conditions that are not consistent with your current illness or conditions. In that case, you should alert your primary care physician immediately. Common symptoms of lupus include
- Muscle and Joint Pain
- Chest pain
- Hair loss
- Kidney Problems
- Extreme Fatigue
Once your physician is aware of your symptoms, the first course of action is to evaluate your medical and family health history and perform a physical exam. Your family health history can help you understand if lupus or other autoimmune diseases run in your family. After the initial evaluation, your provider might instruct you to get a complete blood count (CBC) and Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA).
The CBC is generally used to identify abnormalities in your red and white blood count and platelets. The Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA) can show if your immune system is more likely to make autoantibodies of lupus. Generally speaking, people with lupus will show positive on the ANA test. However, it's important to note that a positive ANA does not automatically mean you have lupus. Your provider might order additional antibody tests tailored to recognize Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): the most common type of lupus.
If further tests are needed to confirm a lupus diagnosis, your provider might recommend a skin or kidney biopsy. During a biopsy, minor surgery is used to remove a sample of skin or kidney tissue that is then examined under a microscope, to look for signs of autoimmune disorder.
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What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and pain throughout any part of your body. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system ( that fights off infection) to attack healthy tissue. Although lupus typically affects your skin, joints, and internal organs such as your heart and kidneys.
Anyone can develop lupus in their lifetime. However, some individuals are at a greater risk of developing it, such as:
- Women ages 15 to 44
- Certain racial-ethnic groups - African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander.
- People who have a family history of lupus or other autoimmune diseases
Types of Lupus
There are four different types of lupus.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Cutaneous lupus: a kind of lupus limited to the skin
- Drug-induced lupus: a lupus-like illness caused by prescription drugs
- Neonatal lupus: rare conditions that pertain to infants of women with lupus
SLE is the most common type of lupus that affects 70% of the individuals that are diagnosed with lupus
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus is often hard to diagnose and pinpoint because most symptoms can be signs of another condition or illness. Although lupus is a chronic condition, the symptoms can come and go, meaning you don't feel them simultaneously or always experience the same symptoms. If you think you might have lupus, you should document the frequency of symptoms you are experiencing and provide your primary care provider with that information. The chart below highlights common lupus symptoms and how they typically appear amongst individuals with lupus.
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Lupus Symptoms and Explanations
|Muscle and Joint Pain||Pain and stiffness, with or without swelling. Common areas: neck, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms|
|Fever||Fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Fever caused by inflammation or infection|
|Rashes||Rashes on parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. One common sign is red, butterfly-shaped rashes across the nose and cheeks|
|Chest Pain||Lupus can trigger inflammation of the lungs|
|Hair Loss||Patchy or bald spots|
|Sun or Light Sensitivity||Most people with lupus are sensitive to light ( photosensitivity)|
|Kidney Problems||Lupus can cause kidney problems such as lupus nephritis; can cause weight gain, swollen ankles, high blood pressure, and decreased kidney function|
|Mouth Sores||Sores or ulcers can appear on the roof of the mouth, gums, or inside the cheeks|
|Prolonged or Extreme Fatigue||Feelings of tiredness or exhaustion even with enough sleep|
|Anemia||Fatigue could be a sign of anemia|
|Memory Problems||Some individuals with lupus report forgetfulness or confusion|
|Blood Clotting||Lupus can cause a high risk of blood clotting|
|Eye Disease||Dry eyes, eye inflammation, and eyelid raches|
Unfortunately, there is no treatment to cure lupus, as it is a chronic but manageable condition. The goal after being diagnosed is usually to feel better, prevent flare-ups, manage symptoms, and reduce organ damage. Following your diagnosis, your physician may prescribe you medications to help manage your lupus. Types of medications commonly used to treat and manage lupus:
- Nonsteroid Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- Antimalarial Drugs
- Immunosuppressive agents or Chemotherapy
Lupus is a common and manageable autoimmune disease that affects thousands of people each year. Although numerous symptoms can indicate lupus, it's essential to consult with your physician before making any self-diagnosis. Once you relay your symptoms and history to your provider, they can create a course of action to determine what is causing your symptoms accurately. Depending on the complexity of your symptoms and health history, testing for lupus can be time-consuming and costly.
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Originally from Houston, Texas, Alexandra is currently getting her Master's in Public Health with a health policy certificate at Columbia University. One of her life goals is to own her own art gallery!