Pediatric Nephrology Clinical Services : Conditions & Procedures

Systemic Lupus Nephritis

Lupus nephritis is an inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a disease of the immune system. SLE typically causes harm to the skin, joints, kidneys and brain.
The causes of SLE are unknown. Many factors may play a role, including:

  • gender—SLE is more common in women than men
  • heredity—a gene passed down by a parent
  • infections
  • viruses
  • environmental causes

What are the symptoms of lupus nephritis?

Lupus nephritis may cause weight gain, high blood pressure, dark urine or swelling around the eyes, legs, ankles or fingers. However, some people with SLE have no obvious symptoms of kidney disease, which must be diagnosed by blood and urine tests.

How is lupus nephritis diagnosed?

Diagnosis may require urine and blood tests as well as a kidney biopsy.
Urine test: Blood or protein in the urine is a sign of kidney damage.
Blood test: The kidneys remove waste materials like creatinine and urea from the blood. If the blood contains high levels of these substances, kidney function is declining. Your doctor should estimate your glomerular filtration rate based on your creatinine score.
Kidney biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure to obtain a tissue sample for examination with a microscope. To obtain a sample of your kidney tissue, your doctor will insert a long needle through the skin. Examining the tissue with a microscope can confirm the diagnosis of lupus nephritis and help to determine how far the disease has progressed.

How is lupus nephritis treated?

Treatment depends on the symptoms and test results. Medicines called corticosteroids can decrease swelling and inflammation by suppressing the immune system. Additional immunosuppressive drugs related to cancer and drugs used to prevent rejection of organ transplants may also be used. You may need to limit protein, sodium, and potassium in your diet.