Lupus Nephritis Clinical Presentation

Updated: Feb 25, 2021
  • Author: Lawrence H Brent, MD; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Patients with active lupus nephritis often have other symptoms of active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), including fatigue, fever, rash, arthritis, serositis, or central nervous system (CNS) disease. These are more common with focal and diffuse lupus nephritis. [30]

Some patients have asymptomatic lupus nephritis; however, during regular follow-up, laboratory abnormalities such as elevated serum creatinine levels, low albumin levels, or urinary protein or sediment suggests active lupus nephritis. This is more typical of mesangial or membranous lupus nephritis.

Symptoms related to active nephritis may include peripheral edema secondary to hypertension or hypoalbuminemia. Extreme peripheral edema is more common in persons with diffuse or membranous lupus nephritis, as these renal lesions are commonly associated with heavy proteinuria. [25]

Other symptoms directly related to hypertension that are commonly associated with diffuse lupus nephritis include headache, dizziness, visual disturbances, and signs of cardiac decompensation.


Physical Examination

With focal and diffuse lupus nephritis, the physical examination may reveal evidence of generalized active SLE with the presence of a rash, oral or nasal ulcers, synovitis, or serositis. Signs of active nephritis are also common.

With active lupus nephritis, patients have hypertension, peripheral edema, and, occasionally, cardiac decompensation.

With membranous lupus nephritis, signs of an isolated nephrotic syndrome are common. These include peripheral edema, ascites, and pleural and pericardial effusions without hypertension.