What is Lupus Nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is the inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease. Lupus nephritis affects the skin, joints kidneys and brain and can result in permanent kidney damage if not treated immediately. The causes of lupus nephritis are unknown but there are several determining factors that have been identified:

  • gender (lupus nephritis occurs in women more than men)
  • infections
  • hereditary – may have been passed down by parents
  • viruses
  • environmental triggers

Lupus Nephritis Symptoms

Lupus nephritis can cause many different symptoms to appear. In some cases lupus nephritis patients do not experience any symptoms and the disease can only be diagnosed by blood and urine tests. These are some of the common symptoms amongst most lupus nephritis patients:

  • weight gain
  • high blood pressure
  • dark urine
  • swelling around eyes
  • swollen legs, ankles and/or fingers

Lupus Nephritis Diagnosis

The diagnosis of lupus nephritis may require blood and urine tests or even a kidney biopsy.

Blood Test: the role of the kidney in the body is to remove waste products from the blood, such as creatinine and urea. If your blood contains high levels of these substances, kidney function may be declining due to the lupus nephritis disease.

Urine Test: If blood or high levels of protein are present in the urine, this is a clear sign of kidney problems that may be caused by lupus nephritis.

Kidney Biopsy: the kidney biopsy is used to obtain a tissue sample of the organ and examine it under a microscope. A long needle is inserted through the skin and small sample is taken from the kidney. Once the sample is taken, the microscope allows the doctor to confirm the lupus nephritis diagnosis and determine how developed the disease is.

Lupus Nephritis Treatment

Depending on your symptoms and test results, treatment for lupus nephritis may vary. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to decrease swelling and inflammation by suppressing the immune system. Additional immunosuppressive drugs may also be prescribed. These drugs are often given to cancer patients and are sometimes used to prevent rejection of organ transplants. You may also require medication for changes in your blood pressure and even a special diet. Because lupus nephritis has reduced kidney function, you may require a low-sodium diet, limit the amount of protein you eat and reduce potassium consumption.

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