- 6 Stages
- Signs and Symptoms
- Related Resources
Lupus nephritis (inflammation of the kidney) is an autoimmune, chronic kidney disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissues. It is a serious complication of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease affecting the skin, joints, kidneys, and brain.
- Lupus nephritis affects millions of people worldwide and is more common in women than in men and people of African and Asian ethnicities.
- Lupus nephritis may lead to kidney inflammation, and swelling of the blood vessels, resulting in hematuria (blood in the urine), proteinuria (protein in the urine), elevated blood pressure, impaired kidney function, and eventually, kidney failure.
- Exams and tests include urine tests, blood tests, and a kidney biopsy.
- Early diagnosis and prompt treatment may help protect the kidneys.
- The life expectancy of lupus nephritis depends on the severity of the symptoms and immune response to medications. With proper treatment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular follow-ups, 80 to 90 percent of people with lupus nephritis are expected to live for the average lifespan.
- Lupus may be life-threatening for people with a severe flare-up of the disease. Some may require renal transplantation to lead a relatively normal life.
What causes lupus nephritis?
The cause of lupus nephritis is unknown, but it is speculated that multiple factors, such as infections, viruses, abnormal immune response to an indolent infection, toxic chemicals, or pollutants, may play a key role in developing the disease.
What are the stages of lupus nephritis? 6 Stages
A system developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1964 to classify lupus nephritis is revised by the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the Renal Pathology Society (RPS) in 2003.
The 6 stages of lupus nephritis include:
- Class I: Minimal mesangial lupus nephritis.
- Class II: Mesangial proliferative lupus nephritis.
- Class III: Focal lupus nephritis (active and chronic, proliferative, and sclerosing).
- Class IV: Diffuse lupus nephritis (active and chronic, proliferative and sclerosing, segmental, and global).
- Class V: Membranous lupus nephritis.
- Class VI: Advanced sclerosis lupus nephritis.
What are the signs and symptoms of lupus nephritis?
The most common signs and symptoms of lupus nephritis include:
- Foamy or frothy urine
- Swelling of the legs, feet, and ankles
- Swelling of face or hands
- Increased frequency or urgency to urinate, especially at night
- High blood pressure
- Arthritis (pain in the joints)
- Weight gain
- Muscle pain
- Pyrexia (fever of unknown origin)
- Red rash on the face across the nose and cheeks called a butterfly rash
IMAGESBrowse our medical image collection to see of photos of autoimmune, vascular, and other systemic conditions See Images
How is lupus nephritis diagnosed?
The doctor will analyze your medical history, perform a physical examination, and recommend certain tests, such as:
- Urine test: A sample is collected to look for the presence of blood and protein in the urine.
- Blood test:
- Kidney biopsy: A procedure involving ultrasound or computed tomography scan guidance to scrape a small piece of kidney tissue to be examined under a microscope to analyze signs of damage.
Can lupus nephritis be cured?
Early diagnosis and prompt treatment may help protect the kidneys.
Lupus nephritis is treated with medicines to suppress the immune system and prevent further kidney damage, which aims to:
- Reduce inflammation in the kidneys
- Decrease or suppress the immune system
- Block the immune cells to produce antibodies that lead to kidney damage
Treatment of lupus nephritis may include:
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, to reduce swelling
- Medications to suppress the immune system (immunosuppressive drugs), such as cyclophosphamide and mycophenolate mofetil
- Diet changes, such as reducing salt and protein intake to control blood pressure, sufficient fluid intake to maintain hydration, regular exercise, avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Medications to control blood pressure
- Dialysis: It involves filtering the blood through a machine in rare cases of kidney failure.
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National Institutes of Health. Lupus and Kidney Disease. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/lupus-nephritis
National Kidney Foundation. Lupus and kidney disease. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lupus
Brent LH. Lupus nephritis. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/330369-overview
Dunkin MA. Lupus Nephritis. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/lupus/lupus-nephritis
Top How Long Can You Live With Lupus Nephritis Related Articles
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How Do I Stop Blood in My Urine?Learn why you might have blood in your urine and how to treat blood in your urine.
How Long Do Kidney Transplants Last?The duration for which a transplanted kidney lasts may vary from person to person. On average, kidney transplants may last for around 10-12 years.
Kidney Disease QuizKidney disease is common. Take this kidney disease quiz to test your knowledge and learn the symptoms, causes and types of kidney disease and what foods to eat and avoid!
Kidney (Renal) Failure
Kidney failure can occur from an acute event or a chronic condition or disease. Prerenal kidney failure is caused by blood loss, dehydration, or medication. Some of the renal causes of kidney failure include sepsis, medications, rhabdomyolysis, multiple myeloma, and acute glomerulonephritis.
Post renal causes of kidney failure include bladder obstruction, prostate problems, tumors, or kidney stones.Treatment options included diet, medications, or dialysis.
Kidneys PictureThe kidneys are a pair of organs located in the back of the abdomen. See a picture of the Kidneys and learn more about the health topic.
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What Are the 5 Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease?The doctor will take your complete medical history along with your family history, such as if anyone in your family has or had diabetes, whether you are on any medications (that can cause kidney damage), and so on. They will perform a thorough physical examination to see if you have any signs or symptoms of CKD.
What Is the First Stage of Kidney Failure?Kidney failure symptoms can be difficult to detect in early stages. Learn about the five stages of kidney failure and what symptoms may accompany each one.