Lupus Nephritis | Impact on the Kidneys

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First of all, what is lupus nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is an inflammation specific structures in the kidneys known as nephrons. Often, this inflammation is originally caused by systemic lupus.

You have two kidneys. They are bean-shaped, fist-sized organs located just below you rib cage on either side of the spine. They play a crucial role in keeping the body free from toxins by filtering blood and removing extra water.

Lupus nephritis affects anywhere from 40-60% of people with lupus. Also, men are more likely to develop it as compared to women. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined 6 levels of lupus nephritis that vary based on the severity. A combination of tests diagnose lupus nephritis including:

  • Urine tests
    • Measures the amount of protein and red blood cells in the urine
  • Blood tests
    • Measures creatinine as a proxy for glomerular filtration rate (GFA). GFA is the rate at which your kidneys filter waste
  • Kidney biopsy
    • A biopsy is a small sample of the kidney that is removed. Looking under a microscope, a pathologist uses a biopsy to confirm nephritis, measure disease progress, and plan treatments.

Common lupus nephritis symptoms

  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Dark urine
  • Foamy, frothy urine
  • Swelling in the lower half of the body

These symptoms can become serious if not managed. They may even lead to to kidney failure and/or the need for a transplant. An accurate diagnosis is the best way to help you develop an effective medication and treatment regime.


Useful Lifestyle Changes

In addition to medication and other clinical methods, there are several lifestyle changes that can help to mitigate nephritis symptoms. Try to:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking
  • Exercise
  • Maintain a low sodium diet


These habits will help maintain the overall health of your kidneys and can dramatically reduce your symptoms.

Because of the number of lupus patients who also face lupus nephritis there are often ongoing clinical trials. Speak with your doctor and your local lupus community to find out about potential clinical trials and new medications.

Important Note:

Not all kidney problems faced by lupus patients are cause by lupus nephritis. Urinary tract infections and other conditions are common among lupus patients. Consult a physician if you have lupus and experience any of these symptoms

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