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.
The filtering unit of the kidney is called the glomerulus. Each kidney has thousands of glomeruli. The glomeruli help the body get rid of harmful substances.
Glomerulonephritis may be caused by problems with the body's immune system. Often, the exact cause of this condition 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. This is called rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis.
Some people with chronic glomerulonephritis have no history of kidney disease.
The following may increase your risk for this condition:
Many conditions cause or increase the risk for glomerulonephritis, including:
Common symptoms of glomerulonephritis are:
Symptoms may also include the following:
The symptoms of chronic kidney disease may develop over time.
Chronic kidney failure symptoms may gradually develop.
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 depends on the cause of the disorder, and the type and severity of symptoms. 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 your intake of sodium, fluids, protein, and other substances.
People with this condition should be closely watched for signs of kidney failure. Dialysis or a kidney transplant may eventually be needed.
You can often ease the stress of illness by joining support groups where members share common experiences and problems.
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.
Call your health care provider if:
Most cases of glomerulonephritis can't be prevented. Some cases may be prevented by avoiding or limiting exposure to organic solvents, mercury, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Reviewed By: Walead Latif, MD, Nephrologist and Clinical Associate Professor, Rutgers Medical School, Newark, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.