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Lupus nephritis is a kidney disorder that is a complication of systemic lupus erythematosus.

Alternative Names of Lupus Nephritis are: Lupus glomerular disease.

Complications of Lupus Nephritis

  • Acute renal failure
  • Chronic renal failure
  • End-stage renal disease
  • Nephrotic syndrome

Causes of Lupus Nephritis

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus) is an autoimmune disease. This means there is a problem with the body's immune system.
  • Normally, the immune system helps protect the body from harmful substances. But in patients with an autoimmune disease, the immune system cannot tell the difference between harmful substances and healthy ones. As a result, the immune system attacks otherwise healthy cells and tissue.
  • SLE may damage different parts of the kidney, leading to interstitial nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and membranous GN. It may rapidly worsen to kidney failure.
  • Lupus nephritis affects approximately 3 out of every 10,000 people. In children with SLE, about half will have some form or degree of kidney involvement.
  • More than half of patients have not had other symptoms of SLE when they are diagnosed with lupus nephritis.
  • SLE is most common in women ages 20 - 40. For more information, see: systemic lupus erythematosus.

Signs & Symptoms of Lupus Nephritis

Symptoms of lupus nephritis include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Foamy appearance to urine
  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling of any area of the body

Diagnosis of Lupus Nephritis

A physical exam shows signs of decreased kidney functioning with edema. Blood pressure may be high. Abnormal sounds may be heard when the doctor listens to the heart and lungs, indicating fluid overload.

Tests that may be done include:

  • ANA titer
  • BUN and creatinine
  • Lupus test
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine immunoglobulin light chain

A kidney biopsy is not used to diagnose lupus nephritis, but to determine what treatment is appropriate.

This disease may also affect the results of the following tests:

  • Complement component 3
  • Complement
  • Syphilis test

Treatments of Lupus Nephritis

  • The goal of treatment is to improve kidney function. Medicines may include corticosteroids or other medications that suppress the immune system, such as cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil, or azathioprine.
  • You may need dialysis to control symptoms of kidney failure. A kidney transplant may be recommended. (People with active lupus should not have a transplant.)

Prevention of Lupus Nephritis

There is no known prevention for lupus nephritis.

When to seek Medical Advice

  • Call your health care provider if you have blood in the urine or swelling of your body.
  • If you have lupus nephritis, call your health care provider if you notice decreased urine output.


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