It may take some time for a person to be definitively diagnosed with lupus. During this time, you may be confused or frustrated by the seeming inability of the doctors you visit to confirm the diagnosis. Part of the difficulty, both for the patient and the doctor, rests in the fact that the diagnosis may seem to be hiding in a forest of confusing, vague, or changeable symptoms.
You can contact the Lupus Alliance of LIQ for information on a rheumatologist near you, or you can go to this directory: American College of Rheumatology
If you would like to find a Dermatologist in your area, go to this directory: American Academy of Dermatology
With so many manifestations of lupus you may need to see many different specialists to treat your disease. Here is a list and explanation of medical specialty areas.
Cardiologist: a doctor who can diagnosis and treat problems with the heart and blood vessels.
Dermatologist: specializes in treatment of the skin and skin disorders.
Endocrinologist: diagnoses and treats the diseases caused by gland and hormone problems, like diabetes and thyroid disease.
Gastroenterologist: treats aliments of the digestive tract as well as diseases of the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder and intestines.
Hematologist: One who specializes in the treatment of blood disorders.
Internist: A physician who specializes in diagnosis and treatment, as opposed to surgery and obstetrics, of diseases of the internal organs.
Nephrologist: A physician that specializes and treats kidney disease.
Neurologist: A specialist who treats conditions involving the brain and the nervous system.
Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in treating cancer.
Opthalmologist: A doctor who specializes in the treatment of the eyes and eye-related disorders.
Otolaryngologist: This doctor specializes in treating ear, nose, throat, head, and neck problems.
Orthopedist: Corrects and prevents disorders of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.
Pathologist: One who is well versed in detecting changes in tissues.
Psychiatrist: A physician who is trained to treat mental and neurotic disorders and the changes that occur with them.
Psychologist: a person who specializes in the mental processes and their effect on behavior. They can help the patient, or the patient’s family cope with problems, disease, sudden illness and accidents.
Pulmonologist: A doctor who concentrates on lung problems such as asthma.
Rheumatologist: An internist who has additional training to treat problems involving the joints, muscles and bones as well as autoimmune diseases.
Before a diagnosis is made, many of a patient’s primary needs are emotional. A lupus patient will, in all likelihood, be on intimate terms with her or his symptoms long before their cause is known. Realistically, she or he is the best authority on these symptoms. A patient may feel frustrated if, after describing symptoms, others do not respect her or his knowledge or do not share the conviction that something is wrong. If the doctor, family, or friends are unsupportive, the patient’s fear, anger and sense of isolation will only increase. These feelings add stress, which in turn can exacerbate the disease.
Health professionals can help ease these feelings by showing empathy during this difficult time and by reassuring the patient that the symptoms are real and merit serious attention. In addition, treating the patient as a whole person, and not just as a subject with a disease, can be immensely valuable in establishing a trusting relationship with the patient. Such a relationship will help the patient speak freely about symptoms or concerns that she or he may have been unwilling to discuss previously.
Lupus Alliance of America, The Lupus Newslink Volume 27 Fall 2008