Healthy Living

Understanding the Effect of Lupus on the Kidneys

Understanding the Effect of Lupus on the Kidneys

Each and every organ and structure in the body has a function to perform. Even seemingly vestigial structures, like the appendix, have been linked to having an impact on the development of our immune system, and the early removal could be the source of some autoimmune disorders.

For this reason, when any of these structures is compromised, there is impact to our bodies. In most cases, medication must be consumed to compensate for the loss (either temporary or permanent) of the structure, at least while the body grows accustomed to its new state.

Kidneys, in particular, are vital. They are tasked with filtering and cleansing the blood of any impurity and excess substances and transfer them to the bladder, where they are discarded through the urine. They are also in charge of regulating many important functions, such as maintaining the inner balance of the organism (homeostasis), controlling the volume of extracellular substances, the osmolarity of the plasma in the blood, and preserving the balance of electrolytes, among many others.

Deficiencies in kidney function are incompatible with life, which is why those who suffer from kidney failure must often rely on crucial procedures such as dialysis on a regular basis, in order to have their blood filtered and cleansed so that they may continue living.

There are many diseases that can affect and compromise the functions of the kidneys. Diseases such as diabetic nephropathy, kidney stones, polycystic kidneys, and kidney cancer, are just a few of the conditions which can compromise kidney function. There are also conditions which can attack the kidneys and partially diminish their functionality.

Lupus is an aggressive disease that can affect every single structure in the body. It is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by the development of antibodies against potentially any organ or entity in the body. It is one of the most prevalent chronic autoimmune disorders and consists of periods of remission, as well as flares that cause great distress to the patient which have the possibility to translate into mild to fatal consequences.

Though its manifestations can vary greatly, the disease is known to affect the kidneys, skin, mucous membranes, musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, nervous system, and the respiratory system. When the disease flares up, the immune system produces antibodies which can target any of these structures and cause inflammatory lesions causing  pain and discomfort, and compromise the function of affected organs.

If a person is suffering from lupus, and is experiencing signs such as problems with urination, namely passing protein through the urine, as well as testing positive for antigens in the blood, it means that the kidneys might be compromised, and that further testing is necessary in order to gauge exactly the extent to which these structures are damaged. In most cases, a kidney biopsy is more than enough to determine the impact.

One of the most important signs of nephritis, or kidney failure is the presence of protein in the urine. However, there are also other conditions that might cause this substances to get passed in the urine. For instance, certain lupus anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen can cause reversible protein in the urine. Partaking of hard drugs such as cocaine, exercising excessively, or suffering from diabetes are all conditions that might make protein spill into the urine.

Other substances that will raise a red flag are red or white blood cells. While they can definitely be indicative of nephritis, they can also be caused by many other conditions.

If the patient is experiencing any of these signs, then a biopsy is the only true tool to gauge whether there truly is any damage to the kidneys, as well as for determining the extent of the said damage. It is particularly important to know exactly how much the kidneys are compromised before beginning treatment, considering that the drugs for this condition can be highly toxic and tax the body to an extent, so they must be administered with great precision.

Luckily, there are new diagnostic tests in development which can prove to be a great boon in diagnosing nephritis. In this sense, accurate diagnosis through simple and non-intrusive means might be possible, and treatment for kidney failure can begin promptly. Furthermore, there are also new drugs for the treatment of kidney disease in development, which can help to address certain conditions such as fibrosis and reverse chronicity in the kidneys of these patients.

These medical advances portray a positive future for those who are currently struggling with kidney disease, either as a result of lupus or from other diseases. In the meantime, the best treatments for dealing with lupus kidney failure is by gauging the extent of the damage first, and then following the treatment while maintaining regular monitoring sessions with the physician.