What is Goodpasture’s Syndrome – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
An antigen is a molecule which helps in the production of another molecule called the antibody. The latter destroys the presence of any invader in the body. One such antigen is the Goodpasture molecule found in the lungs and kidneys. When the body’s natural protection system technically called the immune system attacks these substances, an individual suffers from an autoimmune disorder called the Goodpasture’s Syndrome. It is named after Dr. Ernest Goodpasture who first described the existence of this disease in 1919.
The disease is rare and is six times more prevalent in men than in women. In Europe, 1 in 1,000,000 develops this disease. It is very less likely to be present in people of non-European background. Though people from 4-80 years can develop this condition, the affected age groups are 18-30 and 50-65 years.
Causes: Influenza, kidney surgery, exposure to chemicals like hydrocarbons and paraquat and presence of any abnormal gene in the family history are some of the possible causes of this autoimmune disorder. However, the exact cause or the mechanism behind the onset of this disease is not known yet.
Symptoms of Goodpasture’s Syndrome:
- No specific signs as such
- Protein in urine
- Blood in urine
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Reduced urine
- Difficulty in breathing
- Coughing of blood
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Pulmonary rhonchi – Low pitched sounds similar to wheezing
- Anemia – Low count of red blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients to the entire body
- Pressure during urination
- Bone damage
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle paralysis
- Abnormal rhythm of the heart
- Swelling of limbs, ankles and feet
- Back pain
- Difficulty in concentration
- Memory problems
- Low blood pressure
- Abdominal swelling
- Swelling of the face
- Foamy urine
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Excess protein in the blood
- Darkening of the skin
Symptoms associated with the damage of the lungs become apparent months in prior to the kidney damage. Lung symptoms may remain less serious for years together. By the time these signs become apparent, the patient might require immediate medical attention of the intensive care unit.
The kidney signs too become clear when the disease is in its advanced stage. Very less time is available to the patient and the loved ones to save the vital organ.
Diagnosis: As mentioned above, the two major challenges in finding these signs are that they are asymptomatic, vague and the disease progresses very fast by the time these signs are found. However, the technique of biopsy is best possible way to diagnose this ailment.
The method involves cutting a small portion of the suspected region and placing it under a powerful microscope. It not only reveals the stage of the disease but also helps in knowing the extent up to which the applied treatments prove effective. Some tests to find the presence of certain anti-bodies are also available.
Treatment of Goodpasture’s Syndrome:
Any autoimmune disorder is treated by reducing or suppressing the over-activeness of the immune system. Drugs like corticosteroids and immunosuppressants do so. The course of the treatment lasts for three to six months and the patient’s body is susceptible to infections during this phase of suppressed immune system.
The immunosuppressant treatment in itself is quite notorious of causing several secondary ailments increasing the risks to the patient’s general health.
Death can happen if the damage to the lungs is not found out early. Diagnosis of the state at the right time can ensure complete recovery from the threat to the lungs.
However, there is no treatment which can prevent the damage of the kidneys. They have to be replaced after undergoing the above mentioned course of remedy.