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Lupus nephritis

Contents of this page:


Male urinary system
Male urinary system

Alternative Names    Return to top

Nephritis - lupus; Lupus glomerular disease

Definition    Return to top

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

Causes    Return to top

Lupus nephritis occurs when antibodies (antinuclear antibody and others) and complement build up in the kidneys, causing inflammation. It often causes nephrotic syndrome (excessive protein excretion) and may progress rapidly to renal failure. Nitrogen waste products build up in the bloodstream.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) causes various disorders of the internal structures of the kidney, including interstitial nephritis and membranous GN. Lupus nephritis affects approximately 3 out of 10,000 people. In children with SLE, about half will have some form or degree of kidney involvement.

SLE is most common in women 20-40 years old. For more information, see the general article on systemic lupus erythematosus.

Symptoms    Return to top

Symptoms of lupus nephritis include:

For general lupus symptoms, see the article on SLE.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

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.

Lupus nephritis is usually discovered during investigation of the causes of reduced kidney function. Fewer than half of patients have other symptoms of SLE at the time of diagnosis of lupus nephritis.

Tests that may be done include:

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

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

Treatment    Return to top

The goal of treatment is to improve of kidney function. Medicines may include corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medications.

Dialysis may be needed to control symptoms of kidney failure. A kidney transplant may be recommended. (People with active lupus should not have a transplant.)

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outcome varies depending on the specific form of lupus nephritis. Patients may have acute flare-ups with alternating symptom-free periods.

Some cases of lupus nephritis may progress to chronic kidney failure.

Although lupus nephritis may return in a transplanted kidney, it rarely leads to end stage kidney disease.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if blood in the urine or swelling of the body develops.

If you have lupus nephritis, call your health care provider if there is decreased urine output.

Prevention    Return to top

There is no known prevention for lupus nephritis.

References    Return to top

Harris ED. Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, Sledge CB. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2005.

Noble J. Textbook of Primary Care Medicine. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2001.

Update Date: 8/14/2007

Updated by: Charles Silberberg, DO, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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