The two medical terms for the kidney disease that occurs in systemic lupus erythematosus are lupus nephritis or lupus glomerulonephritis. It is estimated that about one-third of people with lupus will develop nephritis that requires medical evaluation and treatment. Lupus nephritis is an important and potentially serious symptom of lupus.
Clinical Course Of Lupus Nephritis
There are very few signs or symptoms of lupus nephritis.
- It does not cause pain in the abdomen or back.
- However, when protein leaks from the kidneys, it is eliminated from the body in the urine
- Foamy, frothy urine and getting up to urinate during the night can suggest excessive protein loss.
The loss of protein in the urine from lupus nephritis may then lead to fluid retention with weight gain and swelling (edema). This is often the first symptom noticed of lupus nephritis.
- The edema generally appears as puffiness in the feet, ankles and legs.
- This swelling will be absent in the morning, but will gradually worsen as the person walks about during the day.
The clinical path of lupus nephritis is highly variable.
1) Often the signs of lupus nephritis are seen only in urine studies.
- In many people, the urine abnormalities are very mild and may be present during one examination and absent the next.
- This form of lupus nephritis is rather common and generally does not require any special medical evaluation or treatment.
2) In some people, though, abnormal findings in the urine studies may persist or even worsen over time.
- People with this type of lupus nephritis are at risk for loss of kidney function.
- These individuals will need additional studies to assess the extent of their lupus nephritis and to determine the best treatment for controlling the disease.