What Are the Symptoms for Lupus Nephritis?

Reviewed on 3/25/2022
Illustration of lupus nephritis affecting the kidneys
Symptoms for lupus nephritis may include protein in the urine (proteinuria), blood in the urine (hematuria), fluid retention (edema), high blood pressure (hypertension), weight gain, and kidney problems.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack its own organs and tissues, causing inflammation and pain, commonly in the skin, joints, kidneys, and brain, and may be fatal. When SLE affects the kidneys, it is called lupus nephritis. 

Symptoms for lupus nephritis may include:

What Causes Lupus Nephritis?

It is not known what causes lupus nephritis, but factors that may play a role in developing the disease include: 

  • Family history 
  • Environment 
    • Infections
    • Viruses
    • Toxic chemicals or pollutants (car fumes, factory smoke)

How Is Lupus Nephritis Diagnosed?

Lupus nephritis is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination, and tests such as:

  • Urine test to check for protein and blood
  • Blood tests
    • Antiphospholipid antibodies  
    • Protein levels
    • Cholesterol
    • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) which shows how well the kidneys filter waste
    • Anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) 
  • Kidney biopsy 

What Is the Treatment for Lupus Nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is treated with medications such as:

What Are Complications of Lupus Nephritis?

Complications of lupus nephritis are uncommon because treatment is usually effective. When complications of lupus nephritis occur, they can include: 

  • Scarring in the kidneys, which occurs with the most severe form of lupus nephritis (diffuse proliferative nephritis)
    • Scars are permanent
    • Kidney function declines as scars form
  • Kidney failure (occurs in 10 to 30 percent of patients)
  • Increased risk of cancer, especially B-cell lymphoma, a type of cancer that forms in cells of the immune system
  • Increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems
Reviewed on 3/25/2022
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