Kidney cross section
Blood enters your kidneys through your renal arteries. Your kidneys remove excess fluid and waste material from your blood through units called nephrons. Each nephron contains a filter (glomerulus) that has a network of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The glomeruli filter waste products and substances your body needs — such as sodium, phosphorus and potassium — which then pass through tiny tubules. The substances your body needs are reabsorbed into your bloodstream. The waste products flow through the ureters — the tubes that lead 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.
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
Aug. 15, 2019
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- Lupus and kidney disease (Lupus nephritis). National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lupus. Accessed June 14, 2019.
- Jameson JL, et al., eds. Glomular diseases. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2018. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed June 17, 2019.
- AskMayoExpert. Lupus nephritis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research;2018.
- Bomback AS, et al. Diagnosis and classification of renal disease in systemic lupus erythematosus. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 14, 2019.
- Fervenza FC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 1, 2019.
- Warner KW. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 26, 2019.
- Warner KW. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 27, 2019.
- Kidney transplant. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/data/view-data-reports-build-advanced/. Accessed May 21, 2019.
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