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What Is Lupus Nephritis?

Dr. Prashant C Dheerendra 89% (10 ratings)
MBBS, MD - Internal Medicine, DM - Nephrology
Nephrologist, Bangalore  •  14 years experience
What Is Lupus Nephritis?

The inflammation of the kidneys as an effect of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is known as Lupus Nephritis. Like lupus, this is an autoimmune disease. Inflammation of the kidneys hinders kidney functioning by not allowing the kidneys to regulate the optimum amount and types of fluids in the body and restricts the removal of waste through urine. It can also cause the protein to leak out of the kidneys. If not managed in time, this can eventually lead to kidney failure by scarring the kidney tissue. However, this is a rare occurrence. 

On an average, 6 out of 10 lupus patients suffer from lupus nephritis. In most cases, this disease develops within the first five years of lupus symptoms making their appearance. The symptoms of this disease are mild and can vary from person to person. Very often, the first signs of lupus nephritis become visible only in lab tests as the symptoms are similar to those exhibited by other kidney diseases. 

Some of the common symptoms of this condition are: 

  1. Swelling of the feet, ankles and calves 
  2. High blood pressure 
  3. Weight gain 
  4. Frothy, dark urine 

There are five stages types of this disease and hence, the first step to treating this disease is to identify its type. For this, your doctor will begin with a thorough physical examination and understand your medical history. He or she will also ask for a few tests including urine tests, blood tests, an ultrasound and a kidney biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. 

Lupus nephritis is usually treated with corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs. Medication may also be prescribed to lower blood pressure and prevent the clotting of blood. However, in some cases, this treatment may not be enough to stop the progression of the disease and some kidney function may be lost. If both kidneys fail, dialysis is the next medical step. This involves the use of a machine in place of the kidneys to filter and removes waste products from the body. This may be followed by the need for a kidney transplant

Since lupus patients are at a high risk of lupus nephritis, here are a few conscious lifestyle changes that can help prevent this condition:

  1. Have a diet that is low in salt 
  2. Avoid smoking and alcohol 
  3. Exercise regularly 
  4. Avoid non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs("pain killers") and unproven alternative medications that can affect the kidneys. If you wish to discuss any specific problem, you can consult a nephrologist.
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