lupus nephritis
With proper treatment, 80 to 90 percent of people with lupus nephritis are expected to live for their normal lifespan.

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), which is an autoimmune disease that affects 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, swelling of the blood vessels, resulting in hematuria (blood in the urine), proteinuria (protein in the urine), elevated blood pressure, and impaired kidney function, and eventually, kidney failure.

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 normal lifespan.

Lupus may be life-threatening for people who develop 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?

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:

  1. Class I: Minimal mesangial lupus nephritis.
  2. Class II: Mesangial proliferative lupus nephritis.
  3. Class III: Focal lupus nephritis (active and chronic, proliferative, and sclerosing).
  4. Class IV: Diffuse lupus nephritis (active and chronic, proliferative and sclerosing, segmental, and global).
  5. Class V: Membranous lupus nephritis.
  6. 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:

SLIDESHOW

Kidney Stones: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment See Slideshow

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 collected to look for the presence of blood and protein in the urine.
  • Blood test:
    • Serum creatinine, a waste product that accumulates from the normal wear and tear of muscles is measured, which is directly proportional to the extent of kidney damage.
    • To check the levels of protein and cholesterol.
    • To check for antiphospholipid antibodies and antinuclear antibodies.
  • 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:

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Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

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