What is lupus nephritis?
Lupus nephritis is a kind of kidney inflammation that occurs from a complication in people who have systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly just referred to as lupus).
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system produces proteins, called autoantibodies, that attack your own body. In lupus nephritis, lupus autoantibodies affect the parts of your kidneys that filter out waste, leading to inflammation, hematuria, proteinuria, high blood pressure, or even kidney failure.
Lupus is much more common in women than in men, most often occurring during the women’s child-bearing years. In addition, lupus is more common in people of African or Asian descent. Of these lupus cases, half of all adults and eight out of every ten children will develop lupus nephritis.
What are the symptoms of lupus nephritis?
Some of the symptoms of lupus nephritis include foamy or dark urine, high blood pressure, and edema, or swelling caused by excess fluid, usually in the feet, legs, or ankles.
After the initial onset of these symptoms, kidney problems and associated symptoms will start, including:
- Joint pain or swelling
- Muscle pain
- Uncaused fever
- Red rash, often on the face, in the shape of a butterfly
What causes lupus nephritis?
No one knows exactly what causes lupus nephritis, but it is suspected that family history and environmental factors (such as infections, toxic chemicals, and pollutants) may play a role in causing the disease.
How is lupus nephritis diagnosed?
Lupus nephritis is diagnosed through various lab tests. A urine test is used to look for blood and protein in the urine, which signify kidney damage. A blood test is used to estimate a creatinine level in the blood, which increases as kidney disease worsens. Lastly, a kidney biopsy can confirm a diagnosis of lupus nephritis and determine how far the disease has progressed.
What are the available treatments for lupus nephritis?
Treatments for lupus nephritis are aimed at trying to suppress the immune system and reduce high blood pressure and kidney inflammation. Some medicines to help in this process are:
- Immunosuppressive drugs
- ACE inhibitors
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
In addition, eating the right foods can help manage kidney disease, and eating foods with low sodium and low cholesterol may help lower high blood pressure.
In severe cases, patients with lupus nephritis may need a dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Where can I find out more about lupus nephritis?