Glomerulonephritis

Definition

Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease in which the part of your kidneys that helps filter waste and fluids from the blood is damaged.

Causes

Glomerulonephritis may be caused by problems with the body's immune system. Often, the exact cause of glomerulonephritis is unknown.

Damage to the glomeruli causes blood and protein to be lost in the urine.

The condition may develop quickly, and kidney function is lost within weeks or months (called rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis).

A quarter of people with chronic glomerulonephritis have no history of kidney disease.

The following may increase your risk of this condition:

Many conditions cause or increase the risk for glomerulonephritis, including:

Symptoms

Common symptoms of glomerulonephritis are:

Symptoms may also include the following:

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease may develop over time.

Chronic renal failure symptoms may gradually develop.

Exams and Tests

Because symptoms may develop slowly, the disorder may be discovered when you have an abnormal urinalysis during a routine physical or examination for another condition.

Signs of glomerulonephritis can include:

A kidney biopsy confirms the diagnosis.

Later, signs of chronic kidney disease may be seen, including:

Imaging tests that may be done include:

Urinalysis and other urine tests include:

This disease may also cause abnormal results on the following blood tests:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the disorder, and the type and severity of symptoms. High blood pressure may be hard to control. Controlling high blood pressure is usually the most important part of treatment.

Medicines that may be prescribed include:

A procedure called plasmapheresis may sometimes be used for glomerulonephritis caused by immune problems. The fluid part of the blood that contains antibodies is removed and replaced with intravenous fluids or donated plasma (that does not contain antibodies). Removing antibodies may reduce inflammation in the kidney tissues.

You may need to limit salt, fluids, protein, and other substances.

Persons with this condition should be closely watched for signs of kidney failure. Dialysis or a kidney transplant may eventually be needed.

Support Groups

You can often ease the stress of illness by joining support groups where members share common experiences and problems.

See: Kidney disease - support group

Outlook (Prognosis)

Glomerulonephritis may be temporary and reversible, or it may get worse. Progressive glomerulonephritis may lead to:

If you have nephrotic syndrome and it can be controlled, you may also be able to control other symptoms. If it cannot be controlled, you may develop end-stage kidney disease.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

Prevention

There is no way to prevent most cases of glomerulonephritis. Some cases may be prevented by avoiding or limiting exposure to organic solvents, mercury, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).


Review Date: 9/8/2013
Reviewed By: Charles Silberberg, DO, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.