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Lupus Nephritis

What is lupus nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is an inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a disease of the immune system. SLE typically causes harm to the skin, joints, kidneys, and brain.
The causes of SLE are unknown. Many factors may play a role, including

  • gender—SLE is more common in women than men
  • heredity—a gene passed down by a parent
  • infections
  • viruses
  • environmental causes

What are the symptoms of lupus nephritis?

Lupus nephritis may cause weight gain, high blood pressure, dark urine, or swelling around the eyes, legs, ankles, or fingers. However, some people with SLE have no overt symptoms of kidney disease, which must be diagnosed by blood and urine tests.

How is lupus nephritis diagnosed?

Diagnosis may require urine and blood tests as well as a kidney biopsy.

  • Urine test: Blood or protein in the urine is a sign of kidney damage.
  • Blood test: The kidneys remove waste materials like creatinine and urea from the blood. If the blood contains high levels of these substances, kidney function is declining. Your doctor should estimate your glomerular filtration rate based on your creatinine score.
  • Kidney biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure to obtain a tissue sample for examination with a microscope. To obtain a sample of your kidney tissue, your doctor will insert a long needle through the skin. Examining the tissue with a microscope can confirm the diagnosis of lupus nephritis and help to determine how far the disease has progressed.

How is lupus nephritis treated?

Treatment depends on the symptoms and test results. Medicines called corticosteroids can decrease swelling and inflammation by suppressing the immune system. Additional immunosuppressive drugs related to cancer and drugs used to prevent rejection of organ transplants may also be used. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) or mycophenolate (CellCept). Newer experimental treatments include a drug called rituximab (Rituxan).

You may need one or more medicines to control your blood pressure.
You may need to limit protein, sodium, and potassium in your diet.
The U.S. Government does not endorse or favor any specific commercial product or company. Trade, proprietary, or company names appearing in this document are used only because they are considered necessary in the context of the information provided. If a product is not mentioned, the omission does not mean or imply that the product is unsatisfactory.

The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse collects resource information on kidney and urologic diseases for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Reference Collection. This database provides titles, abstracts, and availability information for health information and health education resources. The NIDDK Reference Collection is a service of the National Institutes of Health.

To provide you with the most up-to-date resources, information specialists at the clearinghouse created an automatic search of the NIDDK Reference Collection. To obtain this information, you may view the results of the automatic search on Lupus Nephritis.

If you wish to perform your own search of the database, you may access and search the NIDDK Reference Collection database online.

This publication may contain information about medications used to treat a health condition. When this publication was prepared, the NIDDK included the most current information available. Occasionally, new information about medication is released. For updates or for questions about any medications, please contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at 1–888–INFO–FDA (463–6332), a toll-free call, or visit their website at www.fda.gov. Consult your doctor for more information.


National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse

3 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3580
Phone: 1–800–891–5390
Fax: 703–738–4929
Email: nkudic@info.niddk.nih.gov
Internet: www.kidney.niddk.nih.gov/

The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Established in 1987, the Clearinghouse provides information about diseases of the kidneys and urologic system to people with kidney and urologic disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NKUDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about kidney and urologic diseases.

Publications produced by the Clearinghouse are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts.

This publication is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this publication to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.


NIH Publication No. 07–4622
June 2007

 

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