Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

How Does Lupus Affect The Kidneys?

Systemic Lupus Erythematous otherwise known as Lupus is an autoimmune disorder which has the potential to affect any part of the body including the skin, lungs, heart and even the kidneys. The kidney is a part of the renal system of the body the function of which is to filter out the waste products from the food an individual eats and eliminate it from the body by way of urine stored in the bladder which along with the ureters also forms a part of the renal system.

Another function of the kidneys is to regulate and maintain adequate body fluids required for normal functioning of all the organs of the body. The kidneys also filter out dangerous toxins from the body. Kidneys also play a role in regulating the blood pressure of the body.

How Does Lupus Affect The Kidneys?

When Lupus attacks the renal system, the nephrons get affected first. The nephrons are the filtering unit of the kidneys and filter out the waste products from the blood. Inflammation of the nephrons is medically termed as nephritis. Since this inflammation is caused by Lupus hence it is termed as Lupus Nephritis.

Other than the nephrons, lupus also causes inflammation of the kidneys and nearby tissues which in turn tends to affect the functioning of the kidneys. As a result there is a gradual buildup of toxins and other waste materials in the blood. This abnormal collection of the fluid in the body leads to edema or swelling. Since the kidneys are not able to function as a result of the inflammation the blood pressure of the affected individual may become high.

As the condition progresses, there is further damage done to the kidneys with development of scarring and ultimately permanent damage to the kidneys and development of end stage renal disease. Once there is permanent damage done to the kidneys as a result of Lupus, the individual will have to go for periodic dialysis for removing accumulated fluid and other waste and toxic material from the body.

If both the kidneys get affected from lupus then the individual will have to undergo a kidney transplant in order to have a kidney that is working properly. The success of the transplant is always questionable as the bodies of many individuals reject the new organ that has been placed which may lead to further potentially life threatening complications.

It takes almost four to five years after the onset of lupus for it to affect the kidneys. Lupus affects the kidneys of individuals who are in the age range of 20-40. During the initial stages, there may be no symptoms observed by the individual but gradually as the disease progresses the individual may note a reddish tinge to the urine, the urine may look foamy or frothy, and there may be swelling of the upper and lower extremities due to fluid retention. This may also cause an abnormal weight gain.

Once these symptoms show up, it is advised that the individual gets a urinalysis done so as to identify the disease in its early stages to prevent any permanent damage to the kidneys as a result of Lupus.

Studies estimate that about 60% of individuals with lupus tend to have kidney problems and thus early detection and treatment is a must. Unfortunately, there is no cure for lupus nephritis but the symptoms and inflammation can be controlled to prevent any further damage to the kidneys and also prevent the chances of requiring kidney transplantation as a result of Lupus affecting the kidneys.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: August 9, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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