Adding to what everyone else has said about lupus nephritis, I too was diagnosed with lupus nephritis type 4 three years ago.
My kidney problems actually started 7 years ago, when I got sick and labs showed I was losing lots of protein in urine. I was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome after a biopsy and treated with Chlorambucil (Leukeran) and prednisone.
Up till 2003 my kidneys were doing very well and I was off medication. Then I started swelling again and gaining weight like crazy. After the steroid treatment didn't work for a year I was diagnosed with lupus nephritis in June 2004, after another kidney biopsy. At that time, I was losing 4 grams of protein. Steroids were not helping much so I underwent what they call plasma exchange (removes auto-antibodies from your blood--which attack the kidneys and cause inflammation). Since then the doctor has slowly tapered the steroid dose and today I'm down to 5mg from 60mg three years ago and I'm losing only 1gram of protein in urine. I think 24-hour urine protein is a must, as is a kidney biopsy to determine the percentage of damaged filters. Sorry that was long!!
Bottomline: you're not alone. Even if steroids don't work there are other stronger treatment options. And as someone already mentioned, kidney failure is quite rare. Good luck!!!
I was diagnosed with lupus nephritis, confirmed by bloodwork and kidney biopsy, and mild lupus cerebritis (epileptiform) in June 2004.
Medications: CellCept, Prednisone; Phenytoin; Lipitor; Zestril, Norvasc; Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa).