9 posts tagged “kidney transplant”

What’s the lupus/kidney connection? Our healthcare pros explain lupus nephritis and more

Posted September 24th, 2018 by

“Kidney” is one of the top terms that PatientsLikeMe members are searching for in the lupus forum (click here to join the site for forum access). Last year’s news of Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant put a spotlight on the lupus/kidney link. Lupus can affect your kidneys in a few different ways, so we asked our Health Data Integrity Team (our in-house clinical healthcare professionals) to help us learn more.

What is lupus nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys caused by an autoimmune response. Lupus can cause an autoimmune attack on various parts or tissues in your body, including the kidneys. During this attack, the immune system turns on itself and tries to fight off “foreign invaders” — which are actually your body’s own healthy cells. This can trigger inflammation and swelling of the tissue in an attempt to eliminate foreign bodies.

Lupus nephritis can impair the kidneys so they’re not able to properly remove waste or control fluids in your body. Left untreated, nephritis can lead to more serious kidney disease. Cases may range from mild to severe, depending on the signs and symptoms and what areas of the kidney are involved.

Here are some symptoms of lupus nephritis:

  • Unexplained swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, fingers, arms or eyelids
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Blood in the urine, or urine that looks foamy or frothy
  • Increased need to urinate, especially at night
  • Headache and/or dizziness
  • High blood pressure

Should you get screened?

About 50 percent of people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) develop lupus nephritis, so all patients with SLE should be regularly screened for signs of nephritis. Not everyone will have the symptoms listed above, so screening tests can be helpful in diagnosis. Screenings may include:

  • A kidney biopsy — A tiny piece of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope to determine if there is any scarring or inflammation in the tissue.
  • Urine tests — An abnormal urine test may show there are cell fragments or proteins in the urine, which may signal improper filtering in the kidneys.
  • Blood tests — If the kidneys are not properly functioning, there may be excess fats and other small molecules present in the blood.

How is lupus nephritis treated?

Although lupus nephritis is a serious condition, it can be treated. The goal of treating lupus nephritis is to return normal kidney function and prevent any further kidney damage. Treatments may vary depending on the severity of the disease, but two options are:

  • Steroids such as prednisone, to help reduce the inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs (either in combination with steroids or alone). These drugs help suppress the immune system and further reduce inflammation. Immunosuppressive drugs may include cyclophosphamideazathioprine and mycophenolate. Although cyclophosphamide has some significant kidney-related side effects, it may help prevent lupus nephritis from getting worse. With proper dosing and monitoring by your healthcare provider, you can properly manage and minimize side effects.

Other lupus-related kidney issues

Other kidney disorders can occur as a result of lupus itself or as a side effect of treatment. For example, immunosuppressive drugs taken for lupus can weaken the immune system and increase your body’s susceptibility to infections, particularly urinary tract infections (UTI).

UTI symptoms may include frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, and urinary urgency. If left untreated, the bacteria from the urinary tract infection may travel up into the bladder and kidneys, causing more serious infections that may be harder to treat. If you experience any of these symptoms, let your healthcare provider know immediately in case you need antibiotics to treat the infection.

Some medications used to treat lupus may also cause signs and symptoms of kidney impairment that may be similar to signs of lupus nephritis. Each of the drugs used to treat lupus have their own set of unique side effects, most of which are manageable. If you have any specific questions regarding the risks of the medication you’re taking, ask your healthcare provider for a more detailed and individualized explanation of how your medication can affect you.

It’s important to tell your provider about any new symptoms you experience because they may point to lupus-related complications. Also, remember to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new medications or stopping your treatment.

Are you living with lupus and kidney problems? Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to connect with thousands of others who can relate.

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Give the Gift of Life on National Donor Day

Posted February 13th, 2013 by

Valentine’s Day is all about showing your love for your significant other.  But what if it were also about showing your love for perfect strangers?

February 14th is National Donor Day, a day of awareness about how registering to be an organ donor can give someone a second chance at life.  Does your driver’s license currently indicate that you are a donor?  If not, and you’d like your organs (as well as potentially your tissues, marrow, platelets and blood) to help someone else after you are no longer here, sign up to be a donor today.  In the time it takes you to register, someone with a life-threatening condition will be added to the waitlist.

Wondering if your registration will really make a difference?  Here are a few statistics that help underscore the need for more donors:

  • 117,001 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant
  • 18 people will die each day while waiting for a new organ
  • 1 organ donor can save up to eight lives total

In particular, there is a need for more minority donors.  While organs are not matched according to race/ethnicity, there is a greater likelihood that compatible blood types and tissue markers – the critical elements of the matching process – will be found among members of the same ethnicity.  Thus, a greater diversity of donors could potentially increase access to transplantation, which is essentially the only treatment for end-stage organ failure (e.g. kidney failure, heart failure, liver failure).

Are you awaiting an organ transplant – or the recipient of one?  Join PatientsLikeMe to connect with others like you.  We have thousands of transplant patients among our members, including those with (or still awaiting) a heart transplant, kidney transplant, liver transplant, lung transplant and pancreas transplant. What’s it like to go through organ transplantation? Read our in-depth Patient Voice report on “Life After a Transplant” as well as our insightful interviews with liver transplant recipient Amy Tippins and kidney transplant recipient Michael Burke.