Goodpasture syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. Persons with this syndrome develop substances that attack a protein called collagen in the tiny air sacs in the lungs and the filtering units (glomeruli) of the kidneys.
These substances are called anti-glomerular basement membrane antibodies. The glomerular basement membrane is a part of the kidneys that helps filter waste and extra fluid from the blood. Anti-glomerular basement membrane antibodies are antibodies against this membrane. They can damage the basement membrane, which can lead to kidney damage.
Sometimes this disorder is triggered by a viral respiratory infection or by breathing in hydrocarbon solvents. In such cases, the immune system may attack organs or tissues because it mistakes them for these viruses or foreign chemicals.
The immune system's faulty response causes bleeding in the air sacs of the lungs and inflammation in the kidney's filtering units.
Men are eight times more likely to be affected than women. The disease most commonly occurs in early adulthood.
Symptoms may occur very slowly over months or even years, but they often develop very quickly over days to weeks.
Loss of appetite, fatigue, and weakness are common early symptoms.
The main goal is to remove the harmful antibodies from the blood. A treatment called plasmapheresis removes whole blood from the body and replaces the plasma with fluid, protein, or donated plasma. Removing harmful antibodies may reduce inflammation in the kidneys and lungs.
Corticosteroid medications (such as prednisone) and other drugs that suppress or quiet the immune system may be used.
Controlling blood pressure is the most important way to delay kidney damage. You may get medicines to control high blood pressure, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
You may be told to limit salt and fluids to control swelling. A low to moderate protein diet may be recommended in some cases.
You should be closely watched for signs of kidney failure. If kidney failure becomes severe, you may need dialysis.
If you permanently lose kidney function, you may need a kidney transplant. A transplant is not done until the level of harmful antibodies drops.
An early diagnosis is very important. The outlook is much worse if the kidneys are already severely damaged when treatment begins. Lung damage can range from mild to severe.
Many patients will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Appel GB, Radhakrishnan J, D'Agatis V. Secondary glomerular disease. In: Brenner BM, ed. Brenner and Rector's the Kidney. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap.31.
Charles Silberberg, DO, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.