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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Goodpasture's Syndrome

Goodpasture's Syndrome is an uncommon disease that affects both the kidneys and the lungs.

What are the symptoms of the disease?

If you have the disease, usually you will:
  • bleed from the lungs
  • cough up blood
  • have inflamed kidneys (glomerulonephritis).

What causes the disease?

Usually, symptoms will occur because your body is making antibodies that hurt the lining of your lungs and kidneys. It is not known why your antibodies begin to attack your own body. Usually they only do helpful things such as fight infections.
This problem is most common in people between the ages of 15 and 35 or after age 55. It is not contagious and it is more common in men and Caucasians. Sometimes one will suffer from these symptoms as a result of other diseases, such as lupus erythematosus (LINK) or Wegener's granulomatosis. (LINK)

What kind of bodily damage can result?

Goodpasture's Syndrome may cause life-threatening bleeding in the lungs, but does not usually cause long-term damage in that area. The harm done to your kidneys, however, can result in kidney failure. You may need either dialysis (LINK) or a new kidney (kidney transplant)(LINK). If your kidney is being harmed, you may:
  • appear pale and feel tired
  • have blood or protein in your urine
  • suffer from back pain below your ribs
  • go to the bathroom more often, especially at night
  • have burning or difficulty when urinating
  • have swelling of the hands and feet
  • experience high blood pressure.

How is the disease diagnosed?

There is a specific blood test that can show if you have this harmful antibody. Your doctor may also perform a kidney biopsy (LINK) to see if the antibody is present in the kidney.

What treatments are available?

Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to prevent kidney damage. Your doctor will give you medicine that will fight the harmful antibodies. The doctor may suggest that you undergo a special blood filtering process (plasmapheresis) to remove harmful antibodies.

What can I expect in the long term? Does the disease ever go away?

Usually, your body will make the antibodies for a short time, anywhere from a few weeks to two years. Once this stops, you should not have any more problems with your lungs. However, your kidneys may have been harmed a little or a lot.

Do I need to be on a special diet?

Sometimes you will be asked to change your diet to slow the loss of kidney function. Your doctor may also want you to lower your cholesterol levels and/or add fiber to your diet. Your doctor and your dietitian will help you with these changes.

What else can I do to help myself?

Other measures that may help to keep you healthy are exercise and stress reduction. Also, avoid smoking -- it can increase bleeding into your lungs.

What happens if my kidneys fail?

Unfortunately, by the time you see your doctor, your kidneys may be damaged already. You may require dialysis or a kidney transplant. Before you can get a new kidney, your doctor will make sure the harmful antibodies are out of your system. Medications taken when you get a new kidney also help to prevent your body from making the harmful antibodies.

Does Goodpasture's Syndrome run in families?

Rarely. There have been a few cases where two members of a family had the disease.

Is research being done on Goodpasture's Syndrome?

Yes. Currently, there is much interest in learning what causes the creation of harmful antibodies. This work may lead to new drugs that are more helpful.
Research is being conducted to discover genetic factors that are important in the disease. Also, researchers are searching for better ways to treat the bleeding that happens in the diseased lungs.

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