(Family Features) Many people may recognize the term “lupus” and think of it as an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and swelling, but you may not be aware lupus impacts an estimated 1.5 million Americans and can affect many parts of the body.
The disease that causes the immune system to attack its own tissues mainly impacts women, who make up 9 out of 10 lupus patients. Genetics also play a role in lupus; if you have a family member with lupus or another autoimmune disease, you are at greater risk.
Some racial and ethnic groups are also at elevated risk, including those of Black, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander heritage. Additionally, Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American lupus patients are more likely to develop complications, including kidney damage, also known as lupus nephritis, and these patients tend to have worse outcomes than white patients.
Lupus nephritis – kidney swelling and irritation caused by lupus – affects up to 60% of patients with lupus, according to the American Kidney Fund. It can cause permanent kidney damage, called chronic kidney disease, which can affect your quality of life. People with lupus nephritis also have a higher chance of heart problems, blood vessel problems and developing certain types of cancer.
Symptoms of lupus nephritis include weight gain, fatigue, joint pain or swelling, muscle pain, fever, high blood pressure and frequent urination. Because some of the symptoms of lupus nephritis can also look like symptoms of other diseases, it’s important for lupus patients to talk to their doctors about testing their kidney function regularly. Testing your kidney function involves a urine test to look for protein and a blood test to check for waste products in your blood.
If you are diagnosed with lupus nephritis, it is important you see a kidney doctor, called a nephrologist. Treatment for lupus nephritis focuses on preventing additional kidney damage. It’s also important to recognize lupus nephritis can impact your mental health, too. These tips from the American Kidney Fund can help you navigate your care and cope with lupus nephritis:
To learn more and find resources to help cope with lupus nephritis, visit KidneyFund.org/lupus.Photo courtesy of Getty Images