Icon: Lupus Nephritis

Lupus Nephritis

The kidneys are important organs that play a number of roles in the body. In about 40% of adults who live with lupus, the disease can cause the immune system to attack the kidneys, which may lead to damage. Lupus nephritis most often develops within the first five years after a lupus diagnosis.

I’ve noticed changes in my urine that I want to discuss with my doctor. I always wonder when I see something new if it’s related to my lupus.

The roles of kidneys

Kidneys filter extra water and waste out of your blood to make urine. To keep your body working properly, the kidneys balance the salts and minerals that circulate in the blood. They also make hormones that help control blood pressure, make red blood cells, and keep your bones strong. 

What is lupus nephritis?

When lupus causes the immune system to attack and inflame your kidneys, it’s called “lupus nephritis.” This inflammation can keep your kidneys from working properly. If left untreated, lupus nephritis can lead to permanent kidney damage.

Symptoms of lupus nephritis can include:

  • Foamy urine
  • Swelling (edema), especially in the feet, ankles, legs, fingers, arms, or eyes
  • Blood in the urine
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased urination, especially at night

In the early stages of lupus nephritis, you may not have obvious symptoms. The first signs of lupus nephritis often appear on urine lab tests. This is why it’s important to continue seeing your doctor regularly, even if your lupus seems well controlled.

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Talk to your doctor

If you think you might have kidney disease caused by your lupus, discuss the symptoms with your doctor right away. Your doctor may recommend beginning treatment as soon as possible. Reducing kidney flares may help prevent significant organ damage, the need for dialysis, or even kidney failure.

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Learn more about the basics of lupus.

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What Is Lupus?

Icon: Four Types of Lupus

Types of Lupus

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Common Lupus Symptoms

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Lupus Nephritis

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What Is a Flare?

Icon: Lupus Treatment Options

Lupus Treatment Options

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Resource Organizations