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Kim Kardashian got tested for lupus on Sunday night’s season 17 premiere of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Kim said she’d been experiencing numbness in her hands and other symptoms. Kim tested positive for antibodies for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and doctors are weighing in on what that means. Things got pretty intense on Sunday’s episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians after Kim Kardashian revealed that she’s been feeling…off lately.
“I’ve been feeling so tired, so nauseous and my hands are really getting swollen,” she said. “I feel like I literally am falling apart. My hands are numb.” Kim suspected that she might be pregnant, but a pregnancy test was negative. So, she saw a doctor.
“Lately, my wrists are starting to hurt again but it’s definitely a different feeling,” she said. “I feel this in my bones. It’s starting to really worry me. I really have to look into this. Based on the symptoms, it looks like I have rheumatoid arthritis. It’s so scary. So I have to go to the doctor and see what’s going on because I can’t live like this.”
Kim’s doctor also suspected rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects joints, including those in the hands and feet, and ordered some blood work. Kim was expecting her son, Psalm, via surrogate at the time and said she was “freaking out.”
“I have a baby on the way, I have law school,” she said. “It just can really scare you when you start thinking about how much this is going to change [your] life. … I can’t living without knowing. These few days are just torturous.”
At the end of the episode, Kim’s doctor called to say that her “antibodies are positive” for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in tissues and organs.
Kim’s doctor said there was a chance this could be a false positive, so she scheduled a follow-up appointment to get ultrasound scans on her hands and joints.
While Kris Jenner tried her best to keep her daughter calm, Kim cried about the early results. “You know, you really do get in your head and think about the worst possible things that can happen,” she said. “So for the next few days, it’s going to really be hell … wondering what I have, what’s going on and how to fix this.”
How are lupus and rheumatoid arthritis usually diagnosed? There’s no single test to diagnose lupus, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Instead, your doctor will usually look at your medical history, do a complete physical exam, and take samples from your blood, skin, or kidneys for lab tests.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be hard to diagnose given that there also isn’t a single test for it, the NIH says. The symptoms can also mimic those of other joint diseases. To diagnose someone with RA, a doctor will typically look at a patient’s medical history, do a physical exam, have them to lab tests, and have them undergo X-rays and other imaging tests, the NIH says.
What do Kim’s lupus and rheumatoid arthritis antibodies mean? It doesn’t automatically mean that she has RA or lupus, but it does indicate that further testing is needed, says Dr. Lynn Ludmer, MD, medical director of The Department of Rheumatology at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center.
Antibodies are protein that your body makes to fight off infections. “Sometimes people make abnormal antibodies,” Dr. Ludmer says. These kinds of antibodies that Kim has “are not seen usually in healthy people but they can be seen in a variety of conditions, including autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus,” Dr. Ludmer says. But, she adds, they can also be seen with some viral infections.
Symptoms really matter here as well, says Dr. Orrin Troum, MD, a rheumatologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. If you, like Kim, happened to have these antibodies in your blood, your doctor would want to take a more detailed history and then do more specific tests to try to find a diagnosis, Dr. Troum says. (By the way, some of the antibodies seen in lupus cases can also be seen in patients that have rheumatoid arthritis, so this isn’t rare.)
Again, this could also be due to a simple virus. “People shouldn’t panic under these situations, but it does need further evaluation,” Dr. Ludmer says.
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