The human body is deeply interconnected; when things go awry in one organ or system, it often means that another will be affected, too. One such example of this is Goodpasture’s Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease that affects both the lungs and kidneys.
Autoimmune diseases are characterized by being conditions in which our immune systems, which are supposed to function as a way our body fights infection, mistakenly attacks parts of our own bodies. In the case of Goodpasture’s Syndrome, the body produces antibodies (proteins made to fight infection) that attack and subsequently hurt the linings of the lungs and kidneys. Experts have not yet pinned down why it is the bodies of those with Goodpasture’s begin to make such antibodies, though they speculate that smoking, inhaling vapors from organic solvents, as well as exposure to viral lung infections could trigger the condition.
Goodpasture’s is most often seen in individuals between 20 and 30, or older than 60; it’s more common in Caucasians and men. Luckily, though, it’s not contagious.
If you have Goodpasture’s, you may begin to feel fatigued, a loss of appetite, and overall weakness. The disease may also, however, rapidly progress, causing internal bleeding in the lungs, leading you to cough up blood. It can also cause glomerulonephritis, or inflammation of the kidneys.
While Goodpasture’s could lead to bleeding in the lungs that’s life-threatening, the damage it causes isn’t long-lasting. On the other hand, it could cause long-term damage to your kidneys that culminates in kidney failure. As a result, you may need to be on dialysis or receive a kidney transplant.
To diagnose the disease, your doctor will likely perform a blood test to check for the antibodies that could be damaging your kidneys and lungs. They can also check your urine for signs of kidney disease as well as kidney damage. Additionally, your doctor could perform a kidney biopsy to check if your kidney tissue has been damaged by the antibodies, and an x-ray or lung biopsy could check your lungs for signs of damage.
In terms of treatment, early diagnosis is your best bet, because catching Goodpasture’s early can help ensure you begin treatment to prevent kidney damage. Your doctor might prescribe you medications to help slow down the immune system, which could in turn stop the production of the harmful antibodies. You may also be prescribed medication to prevent high blood pressure or harness the buildup of fluid. Furthermore, your doctor may also recommend you undergo plasmapheresis, a specific blood filtering process that removes antibodies that are dangerous to the system.