What is glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis is an inflammatory disease of the kidneys, specifically the glomeruli. The glomeruli are the part of the kidneys in charge of filtering waste from the bloodstream. Glomeruli can become inflamed for a variety of reasons. Once inflamed, the glomeruli cannot filter waste properly and become leaky, which allows protein and blood to pass into the urine.

Symptoms of glomerulonephritis include blood in the urine, foamy urine, and edema (swelling) of the legs, abdomen and body. As the disease progresses and the kidneys become more damaged, additional symptoms may appear, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, aches, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath. Toward the end stages of the disease, more serious symptoms can occur, such as excessive urination, nosebleeds, bloody stool, and vomiting blood. Glomerulonephritis can even progress to kidney (renal) failure.

While glomerulonephritis can happen to anyone, it most frequently occurs in people who have diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or certain genetic disorders. It can occur rapidly or it may develop very slowly over the course of years. Glomerulonephritis can cause high blood pressure, which often leads to its diagnosis.

Treatment for glomerulonephritis includes blood pressure medication, steroids, and immunosuppressant drugs. Plasmapheresis (to remove antibodies against glomeruli from the blood), dialysis, or a kidney transplant may also become necessary depending upon the cause and severity of the condition. Changes in diet may also help to alleviate symptoms. In some cases, glomerulonephritis may reverse spontaneously; in others, it may become life threatening.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of glomerulonephritis, such as difficulty breathing, uncontrollable nosebleed, bloody stool, or vomiting blood.

Seek prompt medical care if you have persistent or bothersome symptoms of glomerulonephritis.


What are the symptoms of glomerulonephritis?

Symptoms of glomerulonephritis are usually progressive (worsen over time). They result from the kidneys’ inability to filter the blood and an increased leakiness of the glomeruli, which allows waste to build up in the bloodstream and blood and protein to pass into the urine. Sometimes, glomerulonephritis may be symptomless. In other cases, symptoms of glomerulonephritis can be severe and progre... Read more about glomerulonephritissymptoms


What causes glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis is caused by inflammation of the glomeruli, the filtering structures within the kidney. Inflammation can arise from a variety of conditions, often autoimmune and genetic in origin. Exposure to certain chemicals and infections can also lead to glomerulonephritis. Sometimes, the precise cause of glomerulonephritis is not known.

Genetic, autoimmune, and inf... Read more about glomerulonephritiscauses


How is glomerulonephritis treated?

Early glomerulonephritis may not require treatment. In some cases, it spontaneously resolves. For symptomatic glomerulonephritis, treatment depends on the cause of the glomerulonephritis. One of the primary goals of glomerulonephritis treatment is controlling blood pressure to avoid further damage to the kidneys.

Medications for glomerulonephritis

Prescription medicatio... Read more about glomerulonephritistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System

Popular Related Slide Show