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Goodpasture syndrome

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Lungs and bronchial tree

Kidneys and ureters

Alternative Names
anti-GBM antibody disease

Goodpasture syndrome is a condition in which a person's own body attacks the lungs and kidneys. This may result in coughing up blood and rapid kidney failure.

What is going on in the body?
Goodpasture syndrome is a type of autoimmune disease, in which the person's body attacks its own tissue for unknown reasons. It occurs when a person's antibodies mistakenly attack the air-filled sacs of the lungs and the tiny filters in the kidneys. This can lead to rapid kidney failure and lung problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
The symptoms of Goodpasture syndrome include: What are the causes and risks of the disease?
The cause of Goodpasture syndrome is unknown. It is more commonly seen in people who smoke, or have been exposed to hydrocarbons, such as petrol and paint thinners.

What can be done to prevent the disease?
There is no known way to prevent Goodpasture syndrome.

How is the disease diagnosed?
A person's symptoms may make a doctor suspect Goodpasture syndrome. The doctor may order laboratory tests, such as:
  • urinalysis and other urine tests, which can detect kidney damage
  • chest x-ray, which may show signs of swelling in the lungs
  • full blood count, or FBC, to detect anaemia, or a low red blood cell count
  • kidney function tests, to see how badly the kidney has been damaged
  • antibody titre blood test, to see if abnormal antibodies are present
  • biopsy of the kidney, to obtain tissue to be examined for signs of damage to the small filters of the kidney
What are the long-term effects of the disease?
If Goodpasture syndrome is not diagnosed and treated right away, the damage from the disease can lead to end-stage renal failure, in which the kidney ceases to function. Being exposed to hydrocarbons, smoking, and having a lung infection may increase a person's risk of bleeding from lungs with Goodpasture syndrome.

What are the risks to others?
Goodpasture syndrome is not contagious, and poses no risk to others.

What are the treatments for the disease?
Some of the treatments for Goodpasture syndrome include the following:
  • plasma exchange, or plasmaphoresis. This is a procedure in which the abnormal antibodies, along with other blood proteins, are filtered out of the blood. There are then fewer of these antibodies to cause damage to the kidneys and the lungs.
  • steroids to treat inflammation in the lungs and kidneys
  • immunosuppressive medications, such as cyclophosphamide, to stop the white blood cells from making abnormal antibodies
If there is complete kidney failure, dialysis may be necessary. This is a procedure in which a machine filters the blood when the kidneys are no longer able to do so.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
The side effects depend on the treatment used.
  • Plasmaphoresis may remove proteins that help the blood clot. This can lead to bleeding.
  • Steroids and cyclophosphamide suppress the body's immune system. This means that the person is more at risk for infections.
  • Cyclophosphamide can sometimes cause bleeding from the bladder. Drinking large amounts of fluids reduces this risk.
What happens after treatment for the disease?
Even after it has been treated, Goodpasture syndrome can sometimes occur again. If a person needs dialysis when he or she is first treated, chances are that the kidney damage cannot be corrected.

How is the disease monitored?
The doctor should be contacted right away if there is blood in the urine or if the person coughs up blood. Regular urinalysis will be done to check for protein and blood in the urine. Kidney function tests and antibody titre tests will be done periodically to monitor kidney function and antibody formation.

Author: Rajnish K. Dhingra, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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