How does lupus affect the body?

Kidney damage from lupus can be mild or severe. It can cause damage to the filtering units (glomeruli) of the kidney. Since these filtering units clear your blood of waste, damage to them can cause your kidneys to work poorly or not at all. About 90% of people with lupus will have some kidney damage, but only 2-3% actually develop kidney disease severe enough to require treatment.

Kidney disease from lupus may be silent and not cause any symptoms. However, you may have dark urine, flank pain, high blood pressure, weight gain from extra fluid as well as swelling around your eyes and in your hands and feet.
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About 50 percent of people with lupus will experience lung problems. In a person with lupus, the immune system attacks the body's own tissues, causing a variety of inflammation throughout the body. It can affect the lungs by causing the following problems:
•Pleuritis - This is an inflammation of the membrane around the lungs.
•Acute lupus pneumonitis - This is a lung inflammation that occurs suddenly and is characterized by chest pain, shortness of breath, and a dry cough that may bring up blood.
•Chronic (fibrotic) lupus pneumonitis - This is a lung inflammation similar to acute lupus pneumonitis, but differs in that it develops subtly over time.
•Pulmonary hypertension - This is high blood pressure caused by a thickening of the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs.
•"Shrinking lung" syndrome - This is a rare lung condition that causes a sensation of breathlessness and reduced chest expansion.

About one-half of people with lupus experience kidney problems.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that rest under the abdominal cavity, towards the lower back. They filter blood and produce urine. Within the kidney are structures called nephrons that function like a mini-kidney to remove waste and unneeded substances from the body, while also ensuring that the body retains vital nutrients and water.
Lupus most frequently causes a kidney condition called glomerulonephritis. A glomerulus is a tiny capillary, or blood vessel, inside the nephrons that helps filter substances from the blood. Lupus glomerulonephritis causes inflammation and scarring in the glomeruli (plural of glomerulus), which prevents the kidney from effectively filtering substances from the blood and producing urine.

Fortunately, there are a range of treatment options to help treat kidney lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack and inflame otherwise healthy tissues and organs. The heart is among the organs that can be damaged by this disease and heart disease is a primary cause of death among those with lupus. Lupus can cause inflammation of the heart and the tissues and support structure surrounding it. Additionally, those with lupus are at greater risk of developing hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). In fact, people with lupus develop atherosclerosis at a higher rate and much sooner than their peers who do not have lupus. To reduce the risk of heart disease, people with lupus need to maintain normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol levels, and exercise regularly.

Continue Learning about Lupus Risk Factors

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.