What does lupus do to the body? Is it particularly dangerous for the kidneys? What can you do about it? Find out all the answers!
Lupus can manifest itself in many different ways, from a skin rash to joint involvement or kidney damage.
Lupus is a fairly complex chronic autoimmune disease. It consists of the immune system attacking the tissues of your own body, causing an inflammatory process. It can affect anywhere, such as the skin, joints, or kidneys.
Unfortunately, the incidence of lupus has increased in recent years. It is estimated that it affects 9 out of every 10,000 inhabitants in Spain. The problem is that this disease can manifest itself in many different ways, so diagnosing it is sometimes complex.
Although many people are unaware of it, the kidneys are one of the organs most damaged by this pathology. In this article we explain how lupus affects the kidneys and what consequences it can have.
What is it and what does lupus do to the body?
As we have already mentioned, lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease. What happens is that the immune system attacks the tissues of our own body. Despite investigations, its cause is currently unknown.
What is known is that there is a certain genetic predisposition to suffer from it. In addition, a number of factors that can trigger it have been identified, such as sunlight, infections, or certain medications.
It is a pathology that occurs in the form of outbreaks. That is, they are episodes in which the symptoms get worse, but then disappear for a season. As it can affect different tissues, the symptoms and signs that can be expressed are very varied.
The best-known sign is a rash on the skin of the face, in the form of butterfly wings. However, it is essential to understand that not everyone gets it in this form. Other symptoms are fever, tiredness, or joint pain.
How does lupus affect the kidneys?
As we pointed out at the beginning, the kidney is one of the organs most affected by lupus. This condition is called lupus nephritis. It is estimated that it affects almost 50% of people with this pathology. In fact, it is the main cause of mortality in these patients.
Lupus inflames structures in the kidney that allow blood to filter, called nephrons. When this happens, the kidneys cannot properly remove or purify our blood, nor can they control the balance of body fluids.
Most often, kidney involvement occurs in the first five years of illness. The problem is that, at first, the symptoms are very mild and nonspecific. This delays the diagnosis and then the treatment is more complex.
What symptoms appear?
As the kidneys cannot function properly, what happens is that fluid retention occurs. At first, the most frequent symptoms are edema in the legs or feet, and even in the eyelids.
In addition, it is common for the urine to have a foamy appearance or for blood to appear in it. Similarly, there is an increase in blood pressure and nocturia appears, which is the fact of getting up at night to urinate.
What consequences can it have?
If not detected early, lupus nephritis progresses and causes irreversible damage to the kidneys. This causes chronic kidney failure that can lead to the need for a kidney transplant.
However, there are more and more effective treatments to manage this problem. For example, corticosteroids or immunosuppressants can be used to slow down the disease. However, early diagnosis is still very important.
What we must remember is that lupus is a very heterogeneous disease and that the kidney is one of the most affected organs. For this reason, it is essential that in the event of any symptoms, you go to the doctor quickly.
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