Healthy Living

Why Some Lupus Patients Need Kidney Transplants

Why Some Lupus Patients Need Kidney Transplants

Lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects millions every year, has been known to harm the kidneys and other tissues, resulting in severe damage to the body. The variation of lupus that affects the kidneys is called lupus nephritis. This form of the disease inflames the kidneys and impairs their ability to filter blood properly. When lupus causes the body to attack itself, it sends cells to the kidneys to be filtered, but since the kidneys are not functioning correctly, it can result in serious damage that is often permanent and can even cause death in some lupus nephritis patients. 

The cause of this disease is still unknown. Family history and particles in the environment such as pollutants or viruses may be possible culprits, according to researchers. Both men and women are at risk, but lupus tends to occur more frequently in women.

Lupus nephritis causes the following:

  • Fatigue: Feeling of tiredness
  • Weight gain: The kidneys are not able to remove waste effectively from the bloodstream, resulting in weight gain due to the build-up of waste.
  • Blood in the urine: Visible blood in the urine may appear due to kidney damage.
  • Frequent urination: Urinary symptoms such as frequent urination during the day may occur.
  • Joint pain: Waste products may build up in the bloodstream and thus within the joints. This causes joint pain.
  • Edema: If waste products build up in the bloodstream, the ensuing fluid retention can lead to swelling.

Typically, medications that can prevent symptoms are given to manage lupus nephritis, but actual treatment is usually a kidney transplant. Patients receiving a kidney transplant may also take medications to prevent the symptoms of lupus. This suppresses the immune system, allowing the body to accept the new kidney. Patients who receive a kidney transplant experience a better quality of life. However, nationwide, over 100,000 people have been listed for organ transplants, and many have to wait years to receive one.

Therapy is an option for managing lupus nephritis. The main aim is to normalize renal function or recondition it to prevent progressive loss of renal function. If the renal disease is clinically significant for people with lupus nephritis, corticosteroid therapy is another alternative.

Lupus causes the body to attack its own healthy cells, confusing the healthy tissues for invaders that need to be eliminated. The condition is common in women, and often times the disease’s effects are more severe in them. Usually, the kidneys, pancreas, liver, and brain are affected, although the kidneys are the most frequent victims; some form of kidney damage is experienced in almost 60%–90% of people with lupus. They can either be damaged functionally or completely. For patients with lupus, it is unusual to receive a kidney transplant, but this procedure saves lives for those specifically with lupus nephritis. Recently, new medications have been developed to slow the decay of the kidneys and halt their failure.