Lupus nephritis can sometimes result in severe kidney disease, a condition called end-stage renal disease. An alarming study published Monday found a significant increase in cases of this complication in people ages 5 through 39 and in African Americans.
Lupus -- or systemic lupus erythematosus -- is an autoimmune disease that affects 300,000 Americans. It causes inflammation throughout the body as well as fatigue, joint pain and organ damage. Many patients eventually develop inflammation in the kidneys.
The study, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, found a big jump in end-stage renal disease in young people over the period from 1995 to 2006. Half of the children with the condition were African American. Moreover, blacks have end-stage renal disease at rates six to seven times that of whites.
Kidney transplantation can be used to treat patients, but death rates have remained unchanged, said the lead author of the study, Dr. Karen Costenbader, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "Further research is urgently needed to identify modifiable risk factors and interventions that can improve incidence rates and outcomes for children and adults with lupus nephritis," she said in a news release.
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