(March 2006 – Washington, DC) – In light of “National Kidney Month” during March, the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. (LFA) is calling attention to the impact lupus can have on the kidneys. The LFA estimates that 300,000 to 500,000 Americans with lupus will develop lupus-related kidney disease, known as lupus nephritis.
Lupus nephritis is a complicated disorder characterized by autoantibodies (abnormal antibodies produced by the immune system in lupus patients) which are deposited in inflamed kidney tissue, triggering even more inflammation and preventing the kidneys from functioning properly. Some patients with lupus nephritis may have complete loss of kidney function and need to go on dialysis. This occurrence greatly impacts a patient’s quality of life and life expectancy.
There are several medicines that are commonly used to treat lupus nephritis. These include corticosteroids, and cytotoxic or immunosuppressive drugs, which suppress the activity of the immune system. If lupus nephritis is detected early and managed aggressively, treatment is often effective. However, current treatments are toxic and can cause other serious health problems. While no new drugs have been approved to treat lupus in nearly 40 years, a number of studies have been conducted in the past few years which support the probability of new, more effective treatments for lupus nephritis in the future.
Last November, The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study comparing CellCept®, a drug generally used to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ, with the standard treatment of monthly intravenous cyclophosphamide for active lupus nephritis. Researchers concluded that CellCept seemed more effective in this study, and also had fewer side effects. Several other studies have suggested that CellCept might be useful in patients with nephritis, and that more could be learned to use two current agents, azathioprine and cyclophosphamide, optimally as well.
Information presented at the annual American College of Rheumatology meeting in November suggested the possibility that the drug Depakote, may also have some promise in treating lupus nephritis. Depakote (commonly used to treat manic depressive disorder, seizures, and migraine headaches) was given to mice with lupus-like kidney disease and was found to reduce the severity of kidney disease symptoms. Other studies with lupus mouse models suggest that mithramycin, an antibiotic used to treat tumors and trichostatin A (TSA) might be potential treatments for lupus-like kidney disease. Clinical trials on people with lupus would need to be performed to determine the value of these agents.
Kidney disease can be difficult to diagnose as it sometimes does not have many signs or symptoms. Symptoms can include: weight gain, dark or pink or foamy urine, swelling (edema) of the legs, eyelids and hands, and increased fatigue or tiredness. However, other illnesses may have similar symptoms.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage to virtually any organ system in the body. Common symptoms of lupus include achy or swollen joints, extreme exhaustion, fevers, and skin rashes, especially on the face, scalp and neck.
Approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus, 90 percent of whom are women. Lupus is more common among people of color. Lupus occurs two to three times more often among African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans than among Caucasians, a health disparity that remains unexplained.
The Lupus Foundation of America is the nation’s leading nonprofit voluntary health agency dedicated to finding the causes and cure for lupus.
For more information:
LFA Website: Lupus and Kidney Disease
National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Lupus Nephritis