The Lupus Clinic at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, is a collaboration between our rheumatologists, nephrologists and other specialists who provide expert care to patients who have lupus nephritis, glomerular diseases and other autoimmune diseases that affect the kidneys.

What is lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks a person’s joints, skin, blood vessels and many organs — including the kidneys — and requires care from multiple doctors.

About 50% of lupus patients will develop lupus kidney disease, also called lupus nephritis. These people are typically diagnosed with lupus kidney disease within a year of receiving their lupus diagnosis. Lupus kidney disease can progress to end-stage kidney failure in 15 years. The sooner patients start receiving treatment for lupus kidney disease, the better the outcome.

Experts don’t know what causes lupus and most other autoimmune diseases, but in many of these diseases, genetics play a role. Patients who have lupus typically have a close family member who also has lupus or some other autoimmune disease.

Lupus and other autoimmune diseases have “flares,” which occur when the immune system is highly active and aggressively attacking healthy cells and organs. We don’t know exactly what causes flares, but there seems to be a correlation between environmental stress, environmental toxins, infections and flares.

The goal of the Lupus Clinic at Ohio State is to slow progression of kidney disease and prevent flares from occurring. If you’re a newly diagnosed patient or currently experiencing a flare, you’ll be seen at the clinic every four to six weeks. If your disease and symptoms are being managed without complications, you’ll typically be seen at the clinic every three to six months.

Lupus diagnosis

The Lupus Clinic at Ohio State offers the latest diagnostic methods to determine the degree of kidney involvement in lupus kidney disease and other glomerular and autoimmune diseases that affect the kidneys. The main strategies for determining kidney function include:

  • Urinalysis – Your doctor will have you provide a urine sample, which will be tested for the presence of blood or protein.
  • Blood tests – Your doctor will collect a blood sample and have it tested for markers like serum compliment levels and double-stranded DNA that can point to kidney function and disease activity.
  • 24-hour urinalysis – Your doctor will have you collect a urine sample and send it to a specialized lab. The lab will evaluate the content of minerals in your urine, including calcium, oxalate, citrate, uric acid and sodium levels, as well as protein, that can indicate how your kidneys are functioning.
  • Kidney biopsy – Your doctor will use a long needle to extract a sample of kidney tissue that will be evaluated under a microscope. This precise examination allows doctors to see kidney damage at a cellular level and know exactly how your kidneys are being affected by the disease.

Doctors at Ohio State’s Lupus Clinic meet weekly to discuss each patient and develop and modify individualized treatment plans.

Lupus treatment

Treatment for lupus nephritis and other autoimmune diseases affecting the kidneys is focused on managing symptoms and slowing disease progression. Treatment is life-long, as there is no cure for lupus and other glomerular and autoimmune diseases that affect the kidneys.

Treatments offered at Ohio State’s Lupus Clinic include:

  • Medication – Your team of doctors can prescribe immune suppression medications to control the immune system. Other medications include anti-inflammatory medications, medications to help manage blood pressure and hormone levels, and steroids to help improve kidney function and manage other symptoms.
  • Lifestyle modifications – Your team of doctors may recommend changes in your diet and habits that can help improve kidney function and prevent disease flares. These include eating a low-sodium diet, participating in regular physical activity, and avoiding harmful substances like tobacco and alcohol, as well as minimizing stress.
  • Clinical trials – At any point in time, Ohio State has 10 to 20 active clinical trials focused on innovative treatments for lupus and other autoimmune and glomerular diseases that are rare or ultra-rare. These trials allow patients to receive the latest and most advanced medications and treatment therapies.

You’ll have bloodwork, urinalysis and other tests done at clinic appointments to monitor disease progression and modify treatments as needed.

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