Lupus and Kidney Disease (Lupus Nephritis)

Kidney Biopsy

A kidney biopsy is a procedure that involves taking a small piece of kidney tissue for examination under a microscope. A doctor performs the biopsy in a hospital using imaging techniques such as ultrasound or a computed tomography (CT) scan to guide the biopsy needle into the kidney. Health care professionals numb the area to limit pain and use light sedation  to help you relax during the procedure.

The kidney tissue is examined in a lab by a pathologist—a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases.

A kidney biopsy can

  • confirm a diagnosis of lupus nephritis
  • find out how far the disease has progressed
  • guide treatment

The American College of Rheumatology recommends biopsies for people with signs of active lupus nephritis who have not yet been treated.3 Early diagnosis and prompt treatment may help protect your kidneys.

How do doctors treat lupus nephritis?

Health care professionals treat lupus nephritis with medicines that suppress your immune system so it stops attacking and damaging your kidneys. Goals of treatment are to

  • reduce inflammation in your kidneys
  • decrease immune system activity
  • block your body’s immune cells from attacking the kidneys directly or making antibodiesthat attack the kidneys

Medicines

Your health care professional may prescribe a corticosteroid , usually prednisone, and a medicine to suppress your immune system, such as cyclophosphamide  or mycophenolate mofetil, and hydroxychloroquine , a medicine for people who have SLE.

Lupus nephritis can cause high blood pressure in some people. You may need more than one kind of medicine to control your blood pressure. Blood pressure medicines include:

  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs, with drug names that end in –pril or –sartan.
  • diuretics
  • beta blockers
  • calcium channel blockers

ACE inhibitors and ARBs may help protect your kidneys, and diuretics help your kidneys remove fluid from your body.

A health care professional talking to a patient about medicine.

What should I eat if I have lupus nephritis?

If you have kidney disease, you may need to change what you eat. Dietitians are nutrition experts who can advise you about healthy eating and meal planning. Find a registered dietitian who can help you . Eating the right foods can help you manage your kidney disease. If you have high blood pressure, eating foods with less sodium (a part of salt) may help you lower your blood pressure.

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