Frequently Asked Questions

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What is lupus nephritis?


Lupus nephritis is a disease that affects the kidneys of people who have systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called lupus.) Lupus and lupus nephritis are two different diseases. People with lupus nephritis have kidneys that don't work well. They have swelling or scarring on the small blood vessels that filter waste in the kidneys (glomeruli).


Who gets lupus nephritis?


People who have lupus can get lupus nephritis, but about one-third of adults are diagnosed with lupus and lupus nephritis at the same time. Lupus nephritis affects about 200,000 people in the U.S. Both men and women get lupus nephritis, but 90 percent of those diagnosed with lupus are women. Minority groups have more of this disease. About one-third of adults are diagnosed with lupus and lupus nephritis at the same time.


What causes lupus nephritis?


No one knows what causes lupus nephritis. Things like family history, environment, infections and viruses may contribute to this disease.


What are the symptoms of lupus nephritis?


It is common for people to not know that they have lupus nephritis, especially early in the disease. Common signs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling in the legs, feet or ankles
  • Foamy urine

Tests look for high levels of protein in the urine, blood in the urine, high blood pressure and kidney scarring.


How do you diagnose lupus nephritis?


Lupus nephritis is diagnosed by a kidney biopsy. A kidney biopsy is a procedure that is usually done in a hospital. The kidney doctor inserts a needle into the kidney and takes a small piece of the kidney tissue to examine it under the microscope. Watch: Kidney Biopsy Video


Is there a cure for lupus nephritis?


There is no cure for lupus nephritis.


How do you treat lupus nephritis?


Common treatments for lupus nephritis include:

  • Corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation)
  • Immunosuppressive therapy (to quiet the person's immune response)
  • Medications to manage high blood pressure and/or other associated conditions
  • Changes in diet

How does diet affect lupus nephritis?


Eating a healthy diet can help manage kidney disease and lower blood pressure. Our team schedules consultations with certified nutritionists to help patients better understand their dietary needs and restrictions. We recommend foods low in sodium (processed foods are high in sodium), eating small portions of foods high in protein (meat, eggs, beans, dairy), and enjoying a healthy diet including vegetables and fruits.


How does lupus nephritis lead to kidney failure?


Your kidneys work to remove waste from your blood and to manage the amount of fluids in your body. When kidney disease caused by lupus (lupus nephritis) gets worse it could lead to kidney failure.


How do you treat kidney failure from lupus nephritis?


When a person's kidneys fail, they will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.


How do I make an appointment?


Please call (608) 287-2800.