Lupus nephritis (LN) is one of the most serious complications of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). It occurs when the immune system of a person with SLE, attacks the kidneys, preventing them from filtering waste products from the blood.
Symptoms of LN include:
- Dark urine
- Blood in the urine
- Foamy urine
- Having to urinate often, especially at night
- Swelling of the feet, ankles and legs, which worsen over the course of the day
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
Diagnosis of LN can be made through a series of blood and urine tests. Blood tests are used to determine the amount of waste products (creatinine and urea) present. Urine tests help to determine the levels of protein and blood cells present in the urine. The kidney biopsy is the most accurate, although invasive, method of diagnosis used to determine the degree of damage.
Lupus nephritis is classified into six stages, depending on the severity of the kidney damage, with Stage VI being the most severe.
Although there is no cure for LN, treatment is given to prevent worsening damage to the kidneys. If treated early, patients may not need kidney transplants. Treatment may include reduction of protein and salt intake, blood pressure medications, steroids, and immunosuppressants.
A complication of LN is kidney failure. This is treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant. While dialysis is the first choice, most patients will eventually need to get a kidney transplant.
Patients with LN may have varied outcomes. They will require frequent blood and urine tests to determine the progression of the damage.
by Julie-Ann E. Jemmott (Registered Pharmacist, Lupus Warrior)