Lupus Nephritis

Lupus nephritis: What is it?


Systemic lupus erythematosus is an issue that impacts the kidneys and can result in lupus nephritis (NIH external link) (SLE or lupus). An autoimmune illness, or one in which the body’s immune system targets its own tissues and organs, is lupus. lupus-related kidney damage can deteriorate over time and result in renal failure. You will require dialysis or kidney to be healthy if your kidneys fail.

The function of your kidneys


The primary function of the kidneys is to filter surplus water and waste from your blood and produce urine. The kidneys adjust the sodium that circulates in the blood, including calcium, phosphorus, salt, and potassium, to keep your body functioning correctly. Additionally, your kidneys produce hormones that keep your bones healthy, regulate blood pressure, and produce red blood cells.


What causes lupus?


Women are far more likely than males to have lupus, and it typically occurs during the childbearing years. Women make up nine out of ten lupus patients. The prevalence of lupus is also higher in those with African or Asian ancestry. Lupus is around two to three times as common among African Americans and Asian Americans than it is in Caucasians.   One African American woman in every 250 will acquire lupus in the US.


Genes: There is little proof that specific genes cause lupus, although a set of genetics appear to reduce your chance for the condition. For instance, individuals with lupus are more likely to be Hispanic, Native American, African, Asian, or Pacific Islander, presumably as a result of genetic similarities.


However, it is apparent that genes alone cannot explain the condition. Even with identical twins (twins who share the same genes), the likelihood that the other twin would have lupus is only slightly higher than average (around 30%).

Hormones: Lupus affects women far more frequently than it does males. Additionally, it appears that lupus symptoms worsen before menstrual cycles and during conception when estrogen is greater.


Hormone replacement treatment and birth control pills, however, do not appear to increase the incidence of lupus. Scientists are investigating if there is a link, if any, among hormones and lupus or why women appear to be more susceptible to the condition.


Environment: It might be challenging to identify all of the nearby factors that can contribute to lupus. However, there are other elements about which experts have grave concerns. These consist of:


Tobacco smoke

Silica, a typical Earth’s crustal mineral included in sand, rock, concrete, and mortar

Epstein-Barr virus, herpes zoster (which causes shingles), and CMV Mercury UV light stress.



The frequency of lupus nephritis


One of the most frequent health issues brought on by lupus is kidney impairment. Up to 5  out of 10 lupus-affected persons will develop renal disease. Eight out of ten kids with lupus will develop renal disease.

Lupus nephritis stages


Your doctor will assess the extent of your kidney impairment after a diagnosis.


In order to categorize the five distinct phases of lupus nephritis, the World Health Organization (WHO) created a methodology in 1964. The International Association of Nephrology and the Kidney Pathology Society created newer categorization levels in 2003. The previous class I, which exhibited no signs of sickness, was deleted in the new categorization, which also created a sixth class:

Minimal mesangial lupus nephritis, class I


Mesangial proliferative lupus nephritis, class II


Focal lupus nephritis, class III (active and chronic, proliferative and sclerosing)


Diffuse lupus nephritis, Class IV (active and chronic, proliferative and sclerosing, segmental and global)


Membranous lupus nephritis, Class V


Class VI: Advanced lupus nephritis and scleroderma

Who has a higher risk of developing lupus nephritis?


Asian Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans are more prone than Caucasians to acquire lupus nephritis. Men experience lupus nephritis more frequently than women do.

What lupus nephritis signs and symptoms are there?


Foamy urine and edema, which is when your body retains too much fluid and often affects your legs, feet, or ankles but less frequently your hands or face, are two signs of lupus nephritis. Additionally, you could get excessive blood pressure.


Kidney issues can include, but are not limited to, the following, and frequently begin concurrently with or soon after lupus symptoms do.


  • aching or swollen joints


  • muscular ache


  • without a recognized cause, fever


  • a red rash that typically appears on the face, stretches throughout the cheeks and nose, and is referred to as a butterfly rash due to its form.


What tests are used by medical practitioners to identify lupus nephritis?


A kidney biopsy, blood testing, and urine analysis are used to diagnose lupus nephritis.


Test of urine


A urine sample is used by your doctor to check for blood and proteins in your pee. In a doctor’s office or lab, you obtain a urine sample and place it in a container.

A nurse or technician administers the test by dipping a dipstick—a strip full of chemicals paper—into the urine. If blood or protein is present, the color of certain patches on the dipstick changes. Kidney injury is indicated by a high quantity of protein or a higher proportion of red blood cells within urine. Additionally, a microscope will be used to search for kidney cells in the urine.


 Blood test


Your doctor does a plasma test to determine how well your kidneys are functioning. Creatinine, a waste material from your body’s regular breakdown of muscles, is measured by a blood test. Creatinine is eliminated from your blood by your kidneys. Your blood concentration of creatinine can be used by medical practitioners to determine your renal blood flow (GFR). Creatinine levels increase as the renal disease worsens.


Renal biopsy


During a kidney biopsy, a tiny sample of kidney tissue is removed for microscopic examination. In a hospital setting, a clinician does the biopsy while employing imaging methods to direct the biopsy needle into the kidney, such as ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scanning. During the treatment, medical personnel will numb the region to lessen your pain and may also use light sedation.


An expert in illness diagnosis known as a pathologist examines the kidney tissue in a lab setting.


Having a kidney biopsy


establish the presence of lupus nephritis determine the disease’s stage to help with therapy


For those who have not yet received treatment yet exhibit symptoms of active lupus nephritis, the American College of Rheumatology advises biopsies. 3 Your kidneys may be protected with an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


How is lupus nephritis managed by doctors?

When you have lupus nephritis, your immune system is suppressed with medications so that it doesn’t assault and harm your kidneys. Treatment’s objectives are to


lessen kidney inflammatory nephropathy

immune system activation is decreased

prevent your immune system from producing antibodies that will directly or indirectly assault your kidneys



Your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid, often prednisone, as well as a medication to reduce your immune response, such as cyclophosphamide or mycophenolate mofetil, as well as hydroxychloroquine, a drug for SLE patients.


Some persons with lupus nephritis experience elevated blood pressure. To manage your blood pressure, you might need to take more than one form of medication. Among the blood pressure medications are:


ARBs and ACE inhibitors with medication names that finish in -sartan or -pril.


beta adsorbents

blockers of calcium channels

Your kidneys may benefit from the protection of ACE inhibitors and ARBs, while diuretics support renal function by assisting fluid excretion.

When I have lupus nephritis, what should I eat?


You might need to alter your diet if you have renal illness. Nutrition professionals known as dietitians may advise you with advice on healthy eating and preparing meals. Locate a qualified registered dietician to assist you External link. The proper diet can aid in managing renal illness. If you do have high cholesterol, cutting back on sodium (a component of salt) in your diet may help.

What lupus nephritis side effects are there?

You might not have consequences because lupus nephritis is effectively controlled by treatment.


Kidney failure occurs in up to 30 percent of lupus nephritis patients.


6 Find out more about the effects of renal failure.


Kidney scarring can occur as a result of the most severe kind of lupus nephritis, known as diffuse proliferative nephritis. Scars are irreversible, and kidney function frequently deteriorates as more scars appear. Early detection and intervention might lessen the risk of permanent harm.


An increased risk of cancer, particularly B-cell lymphoma, a kind of cancer that starts in immune system cells, exists in people with lupus nephritis. They are also quite vulnerable to heart and blood problems.


How is lupus handled?


Drugs that disable your human immune response are used to treat lupus. Steroids (corticosteroids) and antimalarial medications fall within this category. Because every person is unique, your doctor will create a treatment regimen that is appropriate for you. This could entail a number of different therapies. Typically, lupus nephritis therapy entails:


  • Corticosteroids, often known as “steroids
  • Immunosuppressants
  • single-chain antibodies
  • ACE deterrents and ARBs
  • Diuretics
  • change in diet


Immunosuppressive medications and corticosteroids are used to quiet your immune system, which is your body’s defensive mechanism and prevent it from attacking the glomeruli.


Blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors and ARBs are used to lower urine protein loss and regulate blood pressure.


Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic proteins that function as antibodies and specifically target one class of substances in the body.


Diuretics: These medications aid in the removal of extra fluid and edema from the body. You can also use them to reduce your blood pressure.


Dietary adjustments: You may need to make some dietary adjustments, such as cutting back on protein and salt (sodium) in your diet to better manage blood pressure and lessen the burden of waste on the kidneys.


Lifestyle Modifications for Lupus Nephropathy


A few lifestyle choices can aid with kidney protection. People with lupus ought to follow these guidelines:


  • Consume enough liquids to maintain proper hydration.
  • Eat sensibly, particularly if you have hypertension problems.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol and smoking.
  • Regular exercise
  • Keep a normal blood pressure.
  • Reduce your cholesterol.
  • Avoid using pharmaceuticals like nonsteroidal pro drugs (NSAIDs) that can harm your kidneys (NSAIDs).
  • If you already have renal function loss, your doctor could also advise you to consume a diet low in sodium, phosphorus, and protein.


Despite the seriousness of lupus nephritis, the majority of patients who undergo therapy do not develop renal failure.

Are there any negative effects to these treatments?


Always discuss the advantages and disadvantages of any therapies you get with your doctor. Each medication used in one of these therapies has potential negative effects. Fortunately, most people can generally cope with these adverse effects. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about your treatment. You should constantly take into account both your general health and the condition of your kidneys. Sometimes the risks to your health really aren’t worth the adverse effects of a particular medication.


If you have lupus nephritis and wish to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about the potential impact your medication has on that process.




Lupus nephritis is an autoimmune illness that causes kidney inflammation and damage. Your kidneys are unable to function as they should because of the disorder. It’s critical to get therapy for lupus nephritis as soon as possible. By controlling the disease with medicine and dietary modifications, renal failure may be postponed or avoided. Severe charges of lupus nephritis may require kidney transplantation or dialysis.


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