Lupus Nephritis

Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus or SLE, is an autoimmune disease in which the a patient's immune system attacks his or her own body and causes damage to the kidney, brain, joints, skin, and other organs. When lupus affects the kidneys, it is known as lupus nephritis.  Lupus nephritis can be mild, moderate, or severe, and treatments plans are tailored to each patient individually.

Signs and Symptoms of Lupus Nephritis

Lupus nephritis may lead to:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Protein in the urine
  • Foamy urine
  • Abnormal toxin levels in the blood
  • Edema (swelling)
  • High blood pressure

Diagnosis of Lupus Nephritis

Lupus nephritis is diagnosed through a review of systems, physical examination, and additional testing which may include:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • Kidney biopsy

Treatment of Lupus Nephritis

Lupus nephritis is typically treated with medications. Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and tissue damage.  Treatments may include:

  • Limiting salt and protein in the diet
  • Taking medication to control high blood pressure
  • Taking immunosuppresive medications
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications

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 kidney damage from 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.

Additional Resources