How Is Lupus Nephritis Treated?

Commonly used treatments for lupus nephritis

  • Immunosuppressants

Used to treat aggressive or more severe lupus nephritis. These are powerful therapies that keep your immune system from damaging your kidneys

  • Steroids

Used to quickly reduce and control inflammation of the kidneys

  • Blood Pressure Medications

Used to lower blood pressure and may also slow the progression of kidney disease

  • Antimalarials

This class of medications is often used in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus and have also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of lupus nephritis

Use of Chemotherapy Drugs in Lupus Nephritis

Potent immunosuppressive therapies that are used as chemotherapy drugs for cancers can also play a role in treating aggressive or more severe lupus nephritis. These drugs, which are often given intravenously, may be used in combination with corticosteroids until symptoms go into remission.

Use of High Blood Pressure Medicines in Lupus Nephritis

Because lupus nephritis can also cause high blood pressure in some people, your healthcare provider may give you one or more blood pressure medicines. These medications may not only lower blood pressure but may also slow the progression of kidney (renal) disease. Common blood pressure medicines include:

  • ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): these may help protect your kidneys, slowing the progression of kidney disease.
  • Diuretics: these help the kidneys remove fluid from your body.
  • Beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or other blood pressure medications may also be needed.

Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions.

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Your Lupus Nephritis Treatment

The types of treatments that you are prescribed by your doctor may depend on a number of factors, including the results of your kidney biopsy (which inform your stage or class of lupus nephritis) as well as your previous treatment history or ethnicity. People with classes 1 or 2 lupus nephritis may receive a more conservative treatment regimen that focuses mainly on controlling blood pressure and protecting kidney function. Treatment for classes 1 or 2 is not likely to involve immunosuppressive therapy unless such therapy is required to manage non-kidney-related symptoms associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Other classes of lupus nephritis may call for a combination of the other therapies described in this section.

Ask your doctor about the treatment plan that is right for you.

Goals of Treatment for Lupus Nephritis

The main goals of treatment are to:

  • Control kidney inflammation and help preserve kidney health.
  • Reduce treatment-related side effects.
  • Prevent flare-ups of lupus nephritis symptoms.

Early diagnosis and treatment may help prevent long-term kidney damage. It is also important when taking treatment to monitor your dose of steroids and to work with your rheumatologist and/or nephrologist to manage the amount of protein in your urine (proteinuria).

Be sure to talk to your doctor(s) if you have any questions.

One study found that after 24 weeks of treatment, 9 out of 10 people still showed signs of kidney disease. 

Guide to Talking with Your Doctor

Make the most of your healthcare appointments. Download this helpful discussion guide and bring it with you to your next doctor's visit.

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