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What Is Lupus Nephritis?

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Updated March 13, 2012

Question: What Is Lupus Nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is the name given to the kidney disease caused by systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus nephritis occurs when autoantibodies form or are deposited in the glomeruli, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Lupus nephritis is also known as lupus glomerulonephritis or lupus glomerular disease.

Answer:

How Common Is Kidney Involvement Among Lupus Patients?

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune condition that affects predominantly young women and may affect many different organs in the body including the:

  • skin
  • lungs
  • joints
  • heart
  • central nervous system
  • kidneys

Kidney involvement may affect up to 85% of patients but it is often mild and needs no specific therapy.

How Is Lupus Nephritis Diagnosed?

Lupus nephritis can be detected by finding abnormalities in the urine (such as an increase in the amount of protein) or the blood (such as a decrease in kidney function or elevated creatinine). If the disease is felt to be clinically significant, a renal biopsy (kidney biopsy) may be recommended.

How Is Lupus Nephritis Treated?

Because there is more than one type of lupus kidney disease, treatment is based on the type of disease that is found. For example, no treatment may be recommended for patients with mild disease (Class I), while intravenous Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) and corticosteroids may be used in patients with severe involvement (Class IV).

Answer provided by Scott J. Zashin, M.D., clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zashin is also an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology and a member of the American Medical Association. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of TNF Blockers. The book is a must-have for anyone on one of the biologic drugs (Enbrel, Remicade, Humira) or considering the biologic drugs. Read our review of the book.

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