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Lupus nephritis
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 N08.5
ICD-9 583.81
MedlinePlus 000481
eMedicine med/1597
MeSH D008181

Lupus nephritis is an inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a disease of the immune system. Apart from the kidneys, SLE can also damage the skin, joints, nervous system and virtually any organ or system in the body.


Signs and symptoms

Sufferers of lupus nephritis may or may not have symptoms of kidney disease, but it can manifest itself through weight gain, high blood pressure, darker foamy urine or swelling around the eyes, legs, ankles or fingers.

Histologically a wire-loop lesion will be present. The wire loop lesion is a glomerular capillary loop with subendothelial immune complex deposition that is circumferential around the loop.

Furthermore, patients may suffer from other symptoms of lupus unrelated to kidney function. Such symptoms can include arthritis, fevers, gastro-intestinal disturbances, headaches, fatigue, and fluid in the joints.


The diagnosis of lupus nephritis depends on blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, ultrasound scans of the kidneys, and a kidney biopsy.

The World Health Organization has divided lupus nephritis into five classes based on the biopsy. This classification was defined in 1982 and revised in 1995.[1]

Medicines that decrease swelling, lower blood pressure, and decrease inflammation by suppressing the immune system: Patients may need to monitor intake of protein, sodium, and potassium. Patients with severe disease should restrict their sodium intake to 2 grams per day and limit fluid as well. Depending on the histology, renal function and degree of proteinuria, patients may require steroid therapy or chemotherapy regimens such as cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, mycophenolate mofetil, or cyclosporine.

The medical therapy for lupus nephritis depends on the severity of the disease. For mild disease, corticosteroids are, in general, prescribed. More severe disease requires treatment with immunosuppressant agents. The two most commonly-used agents are mycophenolate mofetil and intravenous cyclophosphamide. One recent study compared these two drugs.[2] The authors showed that patients with Class III or IV disease are more likely to benefit from mycophenolate mofetil as compared to cyclophosphamide. However, a larger study by the same authors that directly compared these therapies did not show that Mycophenolate was superiour to cyclophosphamide except in non-caucasian non-Asian patients[1]. In caucasian or Asian patients both treatments worked equally well. There was no overall difference in safety in this trial, although cyclophosphamide may induce permanent infertility in young women, which is a significant drawback. As a result, mycophenolate mofetil is now considered to be an alternative therapy for this disease.


  1. ^ Weening JJ, D'Agati VD, Schwartz MM, et al. (February 2004). "The classification of glomerulonephritis in systemic lupus erythematosus revisited". J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. 15 (2): 241–50. doi:10.1097/01.ASN.0000108969.21691.5D. PMID 14747370.  
  2. ^ Ginzler EM, Dooley MA, Aranow C, et al. (2005). "Mycophenolate mofetil or intravenous cyclophosphamide for lupus nephritis". N. Engl. J. Med. 353 (21): 2219–28. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa043731. PMID 16306519.  

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