What is chronic glomerulonephritis?
Chronic glomerulonephritis is a collection of kidney diseases in which the glomeruli, round clusters of capillaries found in the cortex of the kidney that function in removing waste to be excreted as urine, become progressively damaged with time.
As the name suggest, chronic glomerulonephritis is a longstanding condition. It is one of the top causes of chronic kidney failure as well as end-stage kidney/renal disease.
There is no cure for chronic glomerulonephritis, which can be a life-threatening illness. However, the prognosis for chronic glomerulonephritis may be improved with an accurate diagnosis and early treatment.
How common is chronic glomerulonephritis?
Chronic 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 chronic glomerulonephritis?
The common symptoms of chronic glomerulonephritis are:
- Excessive urination
- Presence of blood in urine
- Foamy urine: The individual can observe frothy urine while urinating
- High blood pressure or hypertension
- Frequent episodes of nosebleeds
- Getting easily tired, muscle aches and muscle cramps that worsen at night
- Signs and symptoms of anemia that include pale skin, fatigue, and dizziness
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Dry skin, with or without itching
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Feeling of abdominal bloating
- Shortness of breath and coughing
In advanced cases, there may be neurological symptoms such as:
- Decreased alertness
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 chronic glomerulonephritis?
Chronic glomerulonephritis may be caused by a variety of factors and some of these include:
- Diabetic kidney disease: Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to greater damage of the kidneys as a result of complications
- Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS): The scarring of the kidney tissue affects its function and results in nephrotic syndrome
- IgA nephropathy: A condition in which IgA antibodies accumulate in kidney tissue resulting in tissue damage
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus): Autoantibodies found in SLE can attack the kidney tissues and damage its function
- Individuals with several episodes of acute glomerulonephritis may develop Chronic Glomerulonephritis with time
- The disease may have a genetic component, since it has been shown to occur in higher frequency in some families
- Abnormal immune system may lead to chronic glomerulonephritis: Abnormal immunity can result in kidney tissue damage via a variety of mechanisms
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure may damage the kidneys, which over a period of time can cause this form of chronic kidney disease
In about 1 in 4 cases, the cause of chronic glomerulonephritis may remain unknown.
What increases my risk for chronic glomerulonephritis?
There are many risk factors for chronic glomerulonephritis, such as:
- It is known to occur in some families in a higher frequency, which may suggest a genetic involvement
- Individuals with Alport syndrome
- Individuals having episodes of acute glomerulonephritis may develop the chronic form without adequate treatment, as time progresses
- Vasculitis, which is an abnormal inflammation of the arteries
- Smoking for a prolonged period
- Exposure to hydrocarbon solvents such as paints, fuels (gasoline, petroleum products), vehicular exhaust, glues and adhesives, organic solvent vapors, some aerosols and pesticides, can increase the risk. Hence, individuals with occupations that involve painting, printing, vehicle maintenance and repair, fabrication, firefighting, organic chemical and pharmaceutical processes, continuous exposure to motor exhausts, are at risk for this kidney disease
- History of cancer: Cancer can affect the functioning of multiple organs including the kidneys
- Autoimmune disorders such as Goodpasture syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus
- Uncontrolled and longstanding diabetes
- Infections, such as caused by bacteria or virus, are known to increase the risk for chronic glomerulonephritis: Bacterial infections may include bacterial endocarditis (bacterial infection of the heart) and post-streptococcal infection. Viral infections may include HIV, hepatitis B and C infections, etc.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is chronic glomerulonephritis diagnosed?
A diagnosis of chronic glomerulonephritis may involve:
- A complete medical history
- A thorough physical examination
- Blood tests such as the following:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Blood glucose levels and hemoglobin A1c
- Creatinine clearance blood test
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine levels
- Special blood tests to detect abnormal immune functions such as autoantibodies and complement level testing
- 24-hour urine protein analysis: There may be increased blood and/or increased protein in urine
- Chest X-ray
- Ultrasound scan of the kidneys
- CT and MRI scan of the abdomen
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): A series of X-rays using contrast dyes to detect abnormalities in the kidneys
- Kidney biopsy
- Sometimes, the pathologist may perform special studies, which may include immunohistochemical stains, molecular testing, and electron microscopic studies, to assist in the diagnosis
Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
How is chronic glomerulonephritis treated?
There is currently no cure for Chronic Glomerulonephritis. The treatment varies from one individual to another; it also depends on the cause of the underlying illness. Most treatment measures focus on controlling the symptoms of the disease.
- Often, lowering high blood pressure becomes a priority in the treatment of glomerulonephritis, which is accomplished through the use of drugs, as well as dietary changes focused on reducing the intake of sodium and potassium
- Maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance
- Maintaining adequate amounts of protein in the body
- Controlling diabetes using various treatment methods
- Individuals are often instructed to take diuretic pills, which treat puffiness and swelling associated with the disease
- If the cause of chronic glomerulonephritis is due to an autoimmune disorder, then plasmapheresis to decrease the level of damaging autoantibodies may be considered
- If it is caused by abnormalities in the immune system, corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs may be administered
- If the damage sustained by the kidney is severe resulting in ESRD, individuals may need regular urinary dialysis or may even have to undergo a kidney transplant
- Participating in support groups can help in better understanding of the condition and decreasing some of the stress factor
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage chronic glomerulonephritis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with chronic 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.
Review Date: February 26, 2017 | Last Modified: March 10, 2017
Chronic Glomerulonephritis. http://www.dovemed.com/diseases-conditions/chronic-glomerulonephritis/. Accessed 26 Feb 2017.
Glomerulonephritis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glomerulonephritis/basics/definition/con-20024691. Accessed 26 Feb 2017.
Glomerulonephritis. http://www.healthline.com/health/glomerulonephritis#Overview1. Accessed 26 Feb 2017.