Health Library

Goodpasture Syndrome

What is Goodpasture syndrome?

Goodpasture syndrome is a rare autoimmune disease that affects the lungs and kidneys. Normally, the immune system makes antibodies to fight off germs. With Goodpasture syndrome, however, the immune system mistakenly makes antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys. This condition can quickly progress to glomerulonephritis and kidney failure.

This condition may last from a few weeks to as long as 2 years. In some cases, bleeding in the lungs may occur. This is very serious problem is most often in men ages 20 to 30 years of age. In most cases, Goodpasture syndrome does not cause lasting damage to the lungs. Damage to the kidneys may be long-lasting. If the kidneys fail, kidney transplant or dialysis may be needed.

What causes Goodpasture syndrome?

What causes it is not fully understood. Goodpasture syndrome may be an inherited problem. Or, it may develop as a result of a combination of factors. A reaction to certain chemicals, including some often used in dry cleaning, or the weed killer Paraquat may cause it. Viral infections may also play a role.

What are the symptoms of Goodpasture syndrome?

These are the most common symptoms of Goodpasture syndrome:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pale skin

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

  • Coughing up blood
  • Burning feeling when urinating

Eventually, symptoms of kidney involvement may occur, including:

  • Small amounts of blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Protein in the urine (proteinuria)

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

How is Goodpasture syndrome diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam. Other tests include:

  • Blood tests. This test looks for high blood  levels of waste products that are normally cleared by the kidney into the urine. Circulating antibodies are also found by blood tests
    • Urine tests. Protein may be found in the urine along with red and white blood cells, and granular casts.
    • Kidney biopsy. A test in which tissue samples are removed and checked under a microscope.

What is the treatment for Goodpasture syndrome?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Immunosuppressive medications. These medications keep your immune system from making antibodies. They can also make you at greater risk for infections. So, you may also be prescribed antibiotics.
  • Corticosteroids. Used to decrease inflammation and tissue damage which helps control bleeding in your lungs.
  • Plasmapheresis. This is a process in which blood plasma is removed, cleaned of harmful antibodies, and then returned to your body. It is usually given with steroids.

Complications of Goodpasture syndrome

Even with proper treatment, complications may develop. Your kidney function may decrease to the point of kidney failure. This can need treatment such as dialysis or even a kidney transplant.

When should I call my health care provider?

If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your health care provider know.

Key points about Goodpasture syndrome

  • Goodpasture syndrome is a rare disorder in which your body mistakenly makes antibodies that attack the tissue of the lungs and the kidneys.
  • It most often affecting the kidneys in older people and lungs in men 20 to 30 years of age.
  • Treatment should begin early because the disease progresses quickly and has serious outcomes including kidney failure or death if left untreated.
  • If the kidneys fail, dialysis or kidney transplant may be needed.
  • Treatment is aimed at reducing the severity of the symptoms and to prevent your immune system from destroying kidney and lung tissue.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.

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