Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, is a disease in which the the immune system produces proteins that attack the body and cause damage to the kidney, brain, joints and skin. Lupus nephritis is a condition in which the the kidneys become inflamed as a result of systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus nephritis can lead to impaired kidney function or, in extreme cases, kidney failure.
Symptoms of Lupus Nephritis
Symptoms of lupus nephritis include the following urinary-related symptoms:
- Blood in the urine
- Protein in the urine
- Dark urine
- Foamy urine
A person with lupus nephritis may have high blood pressure, and swelling of the hands or feet.
Diagnosis of Lupus Nephritis
Lupus nephritis is diagnosed through a physical examination and a full review of symptoms. Additional tests include the following:
- Blood tests
- Kidney-function testing
- kidney X-rays
A kidney biopsy may also be performed to diagnose lupus nephritis.
Treatment of Lupus Nephritis
Lupus nephritis is typically treated by managing its symptoms through medication and diet. Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and treating the underlying cause of lupus. Some patients may require treatment to restore normal kidney function, and reduce the risk of permanent damage. Treatment includes the following:
- Limiting salt and protein in the diet
- Taking medication to control high blood pressure
- Taking immunosuppresive medication
- Taking anti-inflammatory medication
In some cases, dialysis may be needed temporarily to provide adequate kidney function. Severe cases may require a kidney transplant.
Prevention of Lupus Nephritis
Because lupus nephritis is a common side effect of lupus, it cannot always be prevented. However, in addition to treating any underlying causes, the following lifestyle changes can help to lower the risk of lupus nephritis:
- Exercising regularly
- Following a low-sodium/low-cholesterol diet
- Staying hydrated
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
Avoiding medications that can affect the kidneys also helps in lowering the risk of lupus nephritis.