Kidney cross section
The kidneys remove waste and excess fluid from your blood through filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron contains a filter (glomerulus) that has a network of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. When blood flows into a glomerulus, tiny molecules — water, essential minerals and nutrients, and wastes — pass through the capillary walls. Large molecules, such as proteins and red blood cells, do not. The filtered solution then passes into another part of the nephron called the tubule. The water, nutrients and minerals your body needs are transferred back to the bloodstream. The excess water and waste become urine that flows to the bladder.
Lupus nephritis is a frequent complication in people who have systemic lupus erythematosus — more commonly known as lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It causes your immune system to produce proteins called autoantibodies that attack your own tissues and organs, including the kidneys.
Lupus nephritis occurs when lupus autoantibodies affect structures in your kidneys that filter out waste. This causes kidney inflammation and may lead to blood in the urine, protein in the urine, high blood pressure, impaired kidney function or even kidney failure.
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Signs and symptoms of lupus nephritis include:
- Blood in your urine
- Foamy urine (due to excess protein in urine)
- High blood pressure
- Swelling in your hands, ankles or feet
- High levels of a waste product called creatinine in your blood
As many as half of adults with systemic lupus develop lupus nephritis. Systemic lupus causes immune system proteins to damage the kidneys, harming their ability to filter out waste.
One of the important jobs of the kidneys is to clean the blood. As blood moves through the body, it picks up extra fluid, chemicals and waste. The kidneys separate this material from the blood. It's carried out of the body in urine. If the kidneys are unable to do this and the condition is untreated, serious health problems result, with eventual loss of life.
There aren't a lot of known risk factors for lupus nephritis, except for:
- Sex. Although women are more likely to get lupus, men get lupus nephritis more than women.
- Race or ethnicity. Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and Asian Americans are more likely to have lupus nephritis than whites.
Lupus nephritis can lead to worsened kidney function or kidney failure.
Lupus nephritis care at Mayo Clinic
Jan. 14, 2022
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