Lupus Nephritis

What is Lupus Nephritis?

Lupus Nephritis is a renal inflammation caused by systemic lupus erythematosus””known as SLE or Lupus””is a chronic disease where the immune system attacks its own healthy organs and tissues, thus causing inflammation in many different body systems, joint pain, fatigue, and various other symptoms.

While the exact cause is unknown, doctors believe that lupus can be caused by genetic mutations, hormone fluctuations, and environmental factors. One complication that is caused by lupus is a kidney disease called Lupus nephritis, or specific inflammation in the kidneys. There are six classes of lupus nephritis, each with its own symptoms and treatments. Class I cases are characterized by inflammation of the kidney’s tiny blood vessels, while class VI cases are more advanced and there is an irregular hardening and scarring of tissue. A doctor needs to perform a biopsy to confirm which class a patient may have.

What are the Symptoms of Lupus Nephritis?

Symptoms for lupus nephritis can appear at the same time as SLE symptoms or soon after. Some signs include edema, joint or muscle pain, fevers, face rashes, foamy urine, and increased blood pressure.

Lupus Nephritis Causes

There are a variety of causes for lupus nephritis and often its particular origin on a case by case basis may be inconclusive. Typically Lupus nephritis is an autoimmune disease involving the inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Genetics is another cause of lupus nephritis as it can run in families. Those with a family history of lupus causing their immune system to target their body tissue are likely to contract this kidney disease. Lupus nephritis can also be caused by hepatitis B or C and HIV, as well as lupus itself. In fact, approximately 60% of patients suffering from lupus are likely to develop lupus nephritis. Consequently, there might also be a connection immune system disorders in general.

Kidneys that are inflamed by lupus nephritis function abnormally and can potentially leak protein. If left uncontrolled, lupus nephritis can cause kidney failure. On occasion, antibiotics and other medication can damage the kidneys and cause lupus nephritis. For example, imbibing an exorbitant number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, and water pills can potentially cause nephritis.

How is Lupus Nephritis Treated?

If a person has already been diagnosed with lupus, he or she may not need a renal biopsy since preventative treatments and medications may already be in effect, such as a specific diet and anti-inflammatories. However, a biopsy is often recommended since it can narrow down the class of the lupus nephritis and the required course of treatment.

Lupus nephritis is usually treated with predinosone for a few months, and then the patient will slowly wean off the medication. If the predinosone isn’t enough, a doctor may prescribe an immunosuppresive drug””like corticosteroids””which will help reduce excessive inflammation. While there are mild cases of lupus nephritis, it can turn into kidney failure if not treated. While a kidney transplant can be an option for these serious cases, it is not always possible since those with extremely bad lupus flare-ups will have an immune system that attacks the transplant.

Lupus Nephritis Prevention

In order to avoid lupus nephritis, as well as kidney problems in general, follow these healthy guidelines:

  • Avoid wilderness areas where ticks carrying lupus are prevalent
  • Control your blood pressure to avoid kidney problems
  • Monitor your weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Monitor your blood sugar
  • Exercise regularly

Maintaining a healthy diet will keep your kidneys healthy, reducing the chances of developing lupus nephritis, which ideally involves eating less protein and salt. Speak to a trained physician about your diet especially if you have contracted lupus, as well as about medications that can harm your kidneys such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Other medicines that should be avoided include nephrotoxic medicines that may not cause damage in the long-term but can have deleterious effects long-term. Patients with SLE who take these medicines daily often develop lupus nephritis.