Lupus nephritis is kidney inflammation due to lupus, an autoimmune disease. Symptoms can include fluid buildup in your body and increased urine output. About half of adults and 80% of children with lupus will develop lupus nephritis.
Lupus nephritis is inflammation and damage in your kidneys due to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is the most common form of lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that triggers your immune system to attack your tissues. In addition to your kidneys, lupus can damage your brain, heart, joints, skin and other parts of your body.
Lupus nephritis prevents your kidneys from:
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Only adults and children with lupus can develop lupus nephritis. You’re more likely to get lupus if you:
About 50% of adults with lupus will develop lupus nephritis. About 80% of children with lupus will develop this kidney condition.
In lupus nephritis, your body attacks your kidney, which leads to inflammation and abnormal kidney function. Long-term inflammation leads to scarring and permanent kidney damage.
Symptoms of lupus nephritis tend to develop about five years after lupus symptoms first appear. But lupus nephritis can be the first — and sometimes the only — manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Lupus nephritis can cause:
Your healthcare provider performs a physical examination, reviews your symptoms and evaluates your medical history. Blood and urine tests to detect lupus nephritis include:
Your healthcare provider may also do a kidney biopsy. This is a procedure to examine a small piece of tissue or sample of cells from your kidneys. A biopsy can help your healthcare provider determine the severity of your kidney damage.
Medication and diet changes are the most common treatments for lupus nephritis. Your healthcare provider may recommend:
Kidney failure develops in 10% to 30% of people with lupus nephritis. If this happens, you may need:
If you have lupus, there’s no clear way to prevent lupus nephritis. Some medications (i.e., hydroxychloroquine) might prevent it, so it’s important to follow-up with your hematologist and be treated for lupus if needed.
People who receive timely treatment for lupus nephritis have a positive outlook. People with lupus nephritis who receive medication, dialysis or a kidney transplant tend to do as well as people with other kidney diseases who receive these treatments. But most people need to manage the disease with medication or dialysis for the rest of their lives.
In addition to kidney failure, other long-term complications of lupus nephritis include:
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you experience any of the following symptoms, as they could be signs of sudden kidney failure:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Lupus nephritis is kidney inflammation and damage due to lupus, an autoimmune disease. The condition prevents your kidneys from working as they should. It’s important to seek treatment for lupus nephritis right away. Managing the condition with medication and diet changes may help delay or prevent kidney failure. People with severe lupus nephritis may need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/09/2021.
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