Goodpasture Syndrome

Illustration of the anatomy of the kidney

What is Goodpasture syndrome?

Goodpasture syndrome is a rare, autoimmune disease that can affect the lungs and kidneys. Normally, the immune system creates antibodies to fight off germs. With Goodpasture syndrome, however, the immune system makes antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys, instead of the germs.

According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, this condition may last anywhere from a few weeks to as long as two years. In some cases, bleeding in the lungs may occur--resulting in a very serious condition. However, in most cases, Goodpasture syndrome does not cause permanent damage to the lungs. Damage to the kidneys, however, may be long-lasting. If the kidneys fail, kidney transplantation or dialysis therapy may become necessary.

What causes Goodpasture syndrome?

Goodpasture syndrome may be an inherited condition, or may develop as a result of a combination of factors. What causes it is not fully understood. A reaction to certain chemicals, including hydrocarbon solvents, the weed killer Paraquat, and viral infections may play a role. 

What are the symptoms of Goodpasture syndrome?

The following are the most common symptoms of Goodpasture syndrome. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Dyspnea. Difficult breathing.

  • Pallor. A pale appearance to the skin.

As the condition progresses, other symptoms may occur, including the following:

  • Coughing up blood

  • Feeling a burning sensation when urinating

Eventually, symptoms of kidney involvement may occur, including the following:

  • Small amounts of blood in the urine

  • Protein excretion in the urine

  • Other clinical and laboratory findings

The symptoms of Goodpasture syndrome may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is Goodpasture syndrome diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Goodpasture syndrome may include the following:

  • Blood tests. Laboratory examination of blood for high levels of waste products.

  • Kidney biopsy. A procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope; to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

What is the treatment for Goodpasture syndrome?

Specific treatment for Goodpasture syndrome will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Immunosuppressive medications. Medications to keep the immune system from making antibodies.

  • Corticosteroids. Used to control bleeding in the lungs.

  • Plasmapheresis. A process usually administered in combination with the steroid treatment to filter any harmful antibodies from the blood.