Lupus Nephritis | What is lupus nephritis?

What is lupus nephritis?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is commonly called lupus. It’s a condition in which your immune system begins attacking different areas of your body.

Lupus nephritis is one of the most serious complications of lupus. It occurs when SLE causes your immune system to attack your kidneys — specifically, the parts of your kidney that filter your blood for waste products.

The kidneys play a vital part in your body’s functioning. They remove waste from your blood. If they’re damaged, you can become very ill.

People with damaged kidneys might have to get regular hemodialysis. This is a procedure in which your blood is cleaned by a filtration machine. People with lupus nephritis may even need a kidney transplant

What are the symptoms of lupus nephritis?

Lupus nephritis symptoms are similar to those of other kidney diseases. They include:

  • dark urine
  • blood in your urine
  • foamy urine
  • having to urinate often, especially at night
  • puffiness in the feet, ankles, and legs that worsens over the course of the day
  • gaining weight
  • high blood pressure

Diagnosing lupus nephritis

One of the first signs of lupus nephritis is blood in your urine or extremely foamy urine. High blood pressure and swelling in your feet also might indicate lupus nephritis. Tests that will help your doctor make a diagnosis include the following:

Blood tests

Your doctor will look for elevated levels of waste products, such as creatinine and urea. Normally, the kidneys filter out these products.

24-hour urine collection

This test measures the kidney’s ability selectively to filter wastes. It determines how much protein appears in urine over 24 hours.

Urine tests

Urine tests measure kidney function. They identify levels of:

  • protein
  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells

Iothalamate clearance testing

This test uses a contrast dye to see if your kidneys are filtering properly.

Radioactive iothalamate is injected into your blood. Your doctor will then test how quickly it’s excreted in your urine. They may also directly test how quickly it leaves your blood. This is considered to be the most accurate test of kidney filtration speed.

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