What is glomerulonephritis
Glomerulonephritis (GN) is inflammation of the glomeruli, which are structures in your kidneys that are made up of tiny blood vessels. Glomeruli removes excess fluid, electrolytes and wastes from your bloodstream and pass them into your urine. If your glomeruli are damaged, your kidneys will stop working properly and you can go into kidney failure.
Glomerulonephritis can be acute a sudden attack of inflammation or chronic long-term or recurring. If glomerulonephritis occurs on its own, it is also known as primary glomerulonephritis. If another disease, such as lupus or diabetes, is the cause, it is called secondary glomerulonephritis. Severe or prolonged inflammation associated with glomerulonephritis can damage your kidneys.
How common is glomerulonephritis?
This glomerulonephritis can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of glomerulonephritis?
Signs and symptoms of glomerulonephritis depend on whether you have the acute or chronic form, and the cause. Your first indication that something is wrong may come from symptoms or from the results of a routine urinalysis.
Early symptoms of acute Glomerulonephritis include:
- Puffiness in the face (edema);
- Urinating less often;
- Blood in your urine (dark, rust-colored urine);
- Extra fluid in your lungs, causing coughing;
- High blood pressure.
The chronic form of glomerulonephritis can creep up without any symptoms. There may be slow development of symptoms similar to the acute form. Some symptoms include:
- Blood or excess protein in your urine, which may be microscopic and show up in urine tests.
- High blood pressure;
- Swelling in ankles and face (edema);
- Frequent nighttime urination;
- Bubbly or foamy urine (from excess protein);
- Abdominal pain;
- Frequent nosebleeds.
Your Glomerulonephritis may be so advanced that you’re developing kidney failure. You may have some of the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Dry, itchy skin;
- Muscle cramps at night.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes glomerulonephritis?
Acute glomerulonephritis can be a response to an infection such as strep throat or an abscessed tooth. It may be due to problems with your immune system overreacting to the infection. This can go away without treatment. If it doesn’t go away, prompt treatment is necessary to prevent long-term damage to your kidneys. Illnesses that have been known to lead to inflammation of the kidneys’ glomeruli and trigger acute Glomerulonephritis include:
- Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis: Glomerulonephritis may develop a week or two after recovery from a strep throat infection or, rarely, a skin infection (impetigo). To fight the infection, your body produces extra antibodies that may eventually settle in the glomeruli, causing inflammation. Children are more likely to develop post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis than are adults, and they’re also more likely to recover quickly.
- Bacterial endocarditis: Bacteria occasionally can spread through your bloodstream and lodge in your heart, causing an infection of one or more of your heart valves. You’re at greater risk of this condition if you have a heart defect, such as a damaged or artificial heart valve. Bacterial endocarditis is associated with glomerular disease, but the exact connection between the two is unclear.
- Viral infections: Viral infections, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and hepatitis C, may trigger glomerulonephritis.
- Lupus: A chronic inflammatory disease, lupus can affect many parts of your body, including your skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs.
- Syndrome of goodpasture: A rare immunological lung disorder that may mimic pneumonia, syndrome goodpasture causes bleeding in your lungs as well as glomerulonephritis.
- IgA nephropathy: Characterized by recurrent episodes of blood in the urine, this primary glomerular disease results from deposits of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the glomeruli. IgA nephropathy can progress for years with no noticeable symptoms.
- Polyarteritis: This form of vasculitis affects small and medium blood vessels in many parts of your body, such as your heart, kidneys and intestines.
- Wegener’s granulomatosis: This form of vasculitis affects small and medium blood vessels in your lungs, upper airways and kidneys.
Conditions likely to cause scarring of the glomeruli:
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage your kidneys and impair their ability to function normally. Glomerulonephritis can also lead to high blood pressure because it reduces kidney function and may influence how your kidneys handle sodium.
- Diabetic kidney disease: Diabetic kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy) can affect anyone with diabetes. Diabetic nephropathy usually takes years to develop. Good control of blood sugar levels and blood pressure may prevent or slow kidney damage.
- Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis: Characterized by scattered scarring of some of the glomeruli, this condition may result from another disease or occur for no known reason.
What increases my risk for Glomerulonephritis?
There are many risk factors for Glomerulonephritis, such as those suffering from:
- Antiglomerular basement membrane antibody disease;
- Blood vessel diseases, such as vasculitis or polyarteritis;
- Goodpasture syndrome;
- Heavy use of pain relievers, especially NSAIDs;
- Henoch-Schönlein purpura;
- IgA nephropathy;
- Lupus nephritis;
- Membranoproliferative GN.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is glomerulonephritis diagnosed?
Specific signs and symptoms may suggest glomerulonephritis, but the condition often comes to light when a routine urinalysis is abnormal. Tests to assess your kidney function and make a diagnosis of glomerulonephritis include:
- Urine test: A urinalysis may show red blood cells and red cell casts in your urine, an indicator of possible damage to the glomeruli. Urinalysis results may also show white blood cells, a common indicator of infection or inflammation, and increased protein, which may indicate nephron damage. Other indicators, such as increased blood levels of creatinine or urea, are red flags.
- Blood tests: These can provide information about kidney damage and impairment of the glomeruli by measuring levels of waste products, such as creatinine and blood urea nitrogen.
- Imaging tests: If your doctor detects evidence of damage, he or she may recommend diagnostic studies that allow visualization of your kidneys, such as a kidney X-ray, an ultrasound examination or a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
- Kidney biopsy: This procedure involves using a special needle to extract small pieces of kidney tissue for microscopic examination to help determine the cause of the inflammation. A kidney biopsy is almost always necessary to confirm a diagnosis of glomerulonephritis.
How is glomerulonephritis treated?
Treatment of glomerulonephritis and your outcome depend on:
- Whether you have an acute or chronic form of the disease.
- The underlying cause;
- The type and severity of your signs and symptoms.
Some cases of acute glomerulonephritis, especially those that follow a strep infection, tend to improve on their own and often require no specific treatment. In general, the goal of treatment is to protect your kidneys from further damage.
Keeping your blood pressure under control is important key to protecting your kidneys. To control your high blood pressure and slow the decline in kidney function, your doctor may prescribe one of several medications, including diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, Treatment for an underlying cause.
If there’s an underlying cause for your kidney inflammation, your doctor may prescribe other drugs to treat the underlying problem, in addition to treatment to control any hypertension:
- Strep or other bacterial infection. Treatment usually focuses on easing your signs and symptoms. Your doctor also may prescribe an appropriate antibiotic.
- Lupus or vasculitis. Doctors often prescribe corticosteroids and immune-suppressing drugs to control inflammation.
- IgA nephropathy. In some cases, both fish oil supplements and certain immune-suppressing drugs can successfully treat certain people with IgA nephropathy. Researchers continue to investigate fish oil supplements for IgA nephropathy.
- Goodpasture’s syndrome. Plasmapheresis is sometimes used to treat people with Goodpasture’s syndrome. Plasmapheresis is a mechanical process that removes antibodies from your blood by taking some of your plasma out of your blood and replacing it with other fluid or donated plasma.
- Therapies for associated kidney failure
For acute glomerulonephritis and acute kidney failure, dialysis can help remove excess fluid and control high blood pressure. The only long-term therapies for end-stage kidney disease are kidney dialysis and kidney transplant. When a transplant isn’t possible, often because of poor general health, dialysis is the only option.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Glomerulonephritis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Glomerulonephritis:
- Restrict your salt intake to prevent or minimize fluid retention, swelling and hypertension.
- Cut back on protein and potassium consumption to slow the buildup of wastes in your blood.
- Maintain a healthy weight;
- Control your blood sugar level if you have diabetes;
- Quit smoking.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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GLOMERULONEPHRITIS. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/glomerul. Accessed October 19, 2016.
Glomerulonephritis. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000484.htm. Accessed October 19, 2016.
Glomerulonephritis. http://www.healthline.com/health/glomerulonephritis#Overview1. Accessed October 19, 2016.
Review Date: December 3, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019