What is the role of inflammatory markers in the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)?

Updated: Aug 04, 2021
  • Author: Christie M Bartels, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

Levels of inflammatory markers, including the ESR and CRP, may be elevated in any inflammatory condition, including SLE. However, the level of ESR elevation may show a discrepancy relative to a normal CRP level in SLE flares; if both markers are markedly elevated, suspect the presence of an infectious process. CRP levels change more acutely, and the ESR lags behind disease changes.

Measurement of complement may be useful, because C3 and C4 levels are often depressed in patients with active SLE as a result of consumption by immune complex–induced inflammation. In addition, some patients have congenital complement deficiency that predisposes them to SLE.


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