Lupus nephritis is an inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematous (SLE or lupus). SLE is autoimmune disease that refers to a disorder in which the immune system of the body attacks the cells and organs of one’s own body. Statistics say that up to 60% of people with SLE are diagnosed with lupus nephritis. This disease can cause significant illness and even death. Nephritis makes protein leak from the kidneys that is then removed from the body through urine. A person with lupus nephritis may experience the following symptoms:
- High blood pressure
4.Swelling (edema) around the feet, ankles and legs
This disease is found in around 1/3rd-1/2 of lupus patients. In some cases the patient may not feel any symptom for long periods of time. Many times it is not associated with pain in the abdomen or back.However, iIf this condition is not treated properly it will lead to kidney failure.
A urine test is the most common test for lupus nephritis. It is normally conducted over a 24-hour period to see if the kidneys are functioning properly. This test of urine looks for proteins and blood cells that are not commonly found in urine. The presence of proteins and blood cells in urine indicates kidney damage. Besides urine test, blood tests can also be done to check if kidneys are properly removing wastes from the body. Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) study and the serum creatinine study are generally conducted for this purpose. Serum albumin study and the serum sodium study look for lower blood protein levels and salt or water imbalances respectively. If lupus nephritis is present, a kidney biopsy confirms the disease and it measures the extent of kidney damage too. Treatment of lupus nephritis differs from patient to patient. It may include any of the following:
1. Diuretic drugs to reduce excess fluid that is retained in the body
2. Anti-hypertensive drugs to control high blood pressure
3. Anticoagulation drugs to prevent problems from blood clots
4. Dietary changes to control the levels of salt, water and proteins
5. Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
6. Immunosuppressive drugs to reduce the activity of the immune system
Treatment may fail in severe cases of lupus. Dialysis or kidney transplant is the last resort in such cases. Latest developments in the treatment procedures have brought in slight relief for lupus patients. Diet is not playing an important role in preventing this disease. The possible precaution will be to reduce the intake of sodium and salt. Researchers have learned a lot about kidney disease in the recent years. Clinical trials are research studies involving people. Researchers include clinical trials to look at various aspects of kidney disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) sponsors several programs to better understand kidney diseases with special reference to lupus nephritis. The National Institutes of Health conducts clinical trials and they are available at this NIH site.
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