Lupus nephritis is kidney disease that is caused by lupus. To start, it must be understood that there are many forms of kidney disease that are referred to as lupus nephritis. Each form is distinguished by characteristic patterns of abnormalities as defined by a kidney biopsy.
In general, lupus nephritis is a result of inflammation in the kidneys that is associated with an overactive immune (defense) system. As a consequence, antibodies against the patient’s own tissues (auto-antibodies) form antibody-tissue (antibody-antigen) unions (complexes) that in turn deposit in the kidney and initiate a destructive inflammatory reaction. In fact, very often, the severity of the kidney disease parallels the severity of the immune abnormalities that can be measured in the blood of patients with lupus (such as DNA antibody, complement levels, etc.). Accordingly, treatment usually involves medications that reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. When lupus nephritis leads to kidney failure, however, kidneydialysis or transplantation is necessary to sustain life.