Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, is a disease in which the the immune system produces proteins that attack the body and causes damage to the kidney, brain, joints and skin. Lupus nephritis is a condition where the the kidneys become inflamed as a result of the 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 vary and may include the following urinary-related symptoms:
- Blood in the urine
- Protein in the urine
- Dark urine
- Foamy appearance of urine
Individuals with lupus nephritis may suffer from high blood pressure, and may experience 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 may include:
- Blood tests
- Kidney function testing
- X-ray of the kidney
A kidney biopsy may also be performed so that the tissue of the kidneys can be analyzed.
Treatment of Lupus Nephritis
Lupus nephritis is typically treated by managing the associated symptoms, through medication and diet. Treatment for lupus nephritis 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. This may include:
- Limiting salt and protein in the diet
- Medication to control high blood pressure
- Immunosuppresive medications
- Anti-inflammatory medication
In some cases, dialysis may be needed temporarily to provide adequate kidney functioning. Severe cases may require a kidney transplant. A doctor will determine which type of treatment is most appropriate, based on the severity of symptoms and a thorough review of the patient's individual condition.
Prevention of Lupus Nephritis
Because lupus nephritis can be a common side effect for patients who are suffering from 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:
- Regular exercise
- Low sodium and low cholesterol diet
- Staying hydrated
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
Avoiding medications that can affect the kidneys may also help in lowering the risk of lupus nephritis.