Lupus How does lupus affect my kidneys?

About half the people who have systemic lupus erythematosus develop some form of kidney inflammation, called lupus nephritis. This inflammation can lead to kidney failure, but the course of the lupus and the pattern of its effects on the kidneys is quite variable and hard to predict.

Initially, lupus nephritis may cause no signs or symptoms. But if inflammation is widespread and persistent, it leads to impaired kidney function, indicated by:

  • Foamy urine due to increased protein in the urine
  • Brownish urine due to blood in the urine
  • Elevated creatinine in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling (edema) of the feet, lower legs and occasionally the eyelids

If you’re diagnosed with lupus, your doctor will likely recommend tests to evaluate your kidney function. If a problem is detected, your doctor may recommend a kidney biopsy to help determine the severity of the kidney disease and appropriate treatment.

What causes livedo reticularis? When should I see a doctor?


Livedo reticularis is thought to be due to spasms of the blood vessels or an abnormality of the circulation near the skin surface. It makes the skin, usually on the legs, look mottled and purplish, sort of a net-like pattern with distinct borders.

Sometimes livedo reticularis is simply the result of being chilled. But it may be a symptom of a serious underlying condition, such as vascular disease, an endocrine disorder or a rheumatologic disease, such as lupus. Livedo reticularis rarely may be related to a complication of kidney dialysis known as calciphylaxis. And it may occur as a side effect of certain medications, such as a type of interferon used to treat multiple sclerosis.

When to see a doctor

Most often livedo reticularis needs no treatment, but see your doctor if:

  • Pain or discomfort accompanies livedo reticularis
  • Painful nodules develop in the affected skin
  • Ulcers develop in the affected skin