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Lupus is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that causes the immune system to attack its own body. While joint pain and skin rashes are common symptoms of lupus, the condition can affect other organs, such as the kidneys.

Lupus nephritis is a type of kidney disease that occurs in people with lupus, though people suffering from lupus can get kidney problems from other conditions as well, like diabetes and hypertension.


You can’t develop lupus nephritis unless you have already have lupus. About 50 percent of people with lupus nephritis develop symptoms, but a similar number do not.

Common symptoms include:

1. Swelling of the legs, feet and/or face and around the eyes.
2. Weight changes, many people gain weight without trying to.
3. Foamy or brown urine.
4. Unexplained hypertension.

If you experience any or a combination of these symptoms, you should inform your doctor immediately.

Is there a test to diagnose lupus nephritis?

If you have lupus, your doctor will do regular blood and urine tests to assess for signs of lupus nephritis. If there is suspicion of kidney involvement based on these tests, you might be referred to see a nephrologist (a kidney doctor) for a kidney biopsy, in which a small sample of the kidney tissue is taken and examined under a microscope.


The goal of treatment for lupus nephritis is to control and reduce damage to the kidneys before it’s too late. Medicines can partly turn off the immune system and slow down the damage lupus can cause to the kidneys. Multiple treatment options are available for this purpose including steroids, medications to reign in your immune system, and blood pressure control medication. The goal of all these prescriptions is to prevent further kidney damage.

Severe lupus nephritis can make the kidneys stop working. If this happens, treatment options include dialysis and kidney transplant.

If you think you may have developed lupus nephritis or are at risk, talk to your primary care physician and rheumatologist for more information.

UCF Health offers comprehensive care for patients with autoimmune diseases, like lupus.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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