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Lupus nephritis

Lupus nephritis is a kidney disorder which is a complication of systemic lupus erythematosus.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is an autoimmune disease. This means there is a problem with the body's immune system.

Normally, the immune system helps protect the body from infection or harmful substances. But in people with an autoimmune disease, the immune system cannot tell the difference between harmful substances and healthy ones. As a result, the immune system attacks otherwise healthy cells and tissues.

SLE may damage different parts of the kidney. This can lead lead to disorders such as interstitial nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and membranous glomerulonephritis. Over time, kidney failure can result.


Symptoms of lupus nephritis include:

Exams and Tests

A physical exam shows signs of decreased kidney functioning with body swelling (edema). Blood pressure may be high. Abnormal sounds may be heard when the doctor listens to your heart and lungs.

Tests that may be done include:


The goal of treatment is to improve kidney function and to delay kidney failure.

Medicines may include drugs that suppress the immune system, such as corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil, or azathioprine.

You may need dialysis to control symptoms of kidney failure, sometimes for only a while. A kidney transplant may be recommended. People with active lupus should not have a transplant because the condition can occur in the transplanted kidney.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do, depends on the specific form of lupus nephritis. You may have flare-ups, and then times when you do not have any symptoms.

Some people with this condition develop chronic kidney failure.

Although lupus nephritis may return in a transplanted kidney, it rarely leads to end-stage kidney disease.

Possible Complications

Complications that may result from lupus nephritis include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have blood in the urine or swelling of your body.

If you have lupus nephritis, call your provider if you notice decreased urine output.


Treating lupus may help prevent or delay onset of lupus nephritis.

Alternative Names

Nephritis - lupus; Lupus glomerular disease


Appel GB, Jayne D, Rovin BH. Lupus nephritis. In: Johnson RJ, Feehally J, Floege J, eds. Comprehensive Clinical Nephrology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 26.

Hahn BH, McMahon M, Wilkinson A, et al. American College of Rheumatology Guidelines for Screening, Case Definition, Treatment and Management of Lupus Nephritis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2012;64(6):797-808. PMC:3437757 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3437757.

Review Date 9/22/2015

Updated by: Charles Silberberg, DO, private practice specializing in nephrology, affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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