Goodpasture's syndrome is a rare disease that can affect the lungs and kidneys. It is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which the body's own defense system reacts against some part of the body itself. When the immune system is working normally, it creates antibodies to fight off germs. In Goodpasture's syndrome, the immune system makes antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys. Why this happens is uncertain. A combination of factors has been implicated, among them the presence of an inherited component and exposure to certain chemicals.
Goodpasture's syndrome can cause people to cough up blood or feel a burning sensation when urinating. But its first signs may be vague, like fatigue, nausea, dyspnea (difficulty breathing), or pallor. These signs are followed by kidney involvement, represented first by small amounts of blood in the urine, protein in the urine, and other clinical and laboratory findings.
To diagnose Goodpasture's syndrome, doctors use a blood test, but a kidney biopsy (or a lung biopsy) may be necessary to check for the presence of the harmful antibody.
Goodpasture's syndrome is treated with oral immunosuppressive drugs (cyclophosphamide and corticosteroids) to keep the immune system from making antibodies. Corticosteroid drugs may be given intravenously to control bleeding in the lungs. A process called plasmapheresis (PLAZ-ma-fer-REE-sis) may be helpful and necessary to remove the harmful antibodies from the blood; this is usually done in combination with the immunosuppressive drug treatment.
Goodpasture's syndrome may last only a few weeks or as long as 2 years. Bleeding in the lungs can be very serious in some cases. But Goodpasture's syndrome does not usually lead to permanent lung damage. Damage to the kidneys, however, may be long-lasting. If the kidneys fail, dialysis to remove waste products and extra fluid from the blood or kidney transplantation may become necessary.