Lupus nephritis (LN) is a form of glomerulonephritis that constitutes one of the most severe organ manifestations of the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Most patients with SLE who develop LN do so within 5 years of an SLE diagnosis and, in many cases, LN is the presenting manifestation resulting in the diagnosis of SLE. Understanding of the genetic and pathogenetic basis of LN has improved substantially over the past few decades. Treatment of LN usually involves immunosuppressive therapy, typically with mycophenolate mofetil or cyclophosphamide and with glucocorticoids, although these treatments are not uniformly effective. Despite increased knowledge of disease pathogenesis and improved treatment options, LN remains a substantial cause of morbidity and death among patients with SLE. Within 10 years of an initial SLE diagnosis, 5–20% of patients with LN develop end-stage kidney disease, and the multiple comorbidities associated with immunosuppressive treatment, including infections, osteoporosis and cardiovascular and reproductive effects, remain a concern. Clearly, early and accurate diagnosis of LN and prompt initiation of therapy are of vital importance to improve outcomes in patients with SLE.
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