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    Glomerulonephritis

    Glomerulonephritis - chronic; Chronic nephritis; Glomerular disease; Necrotizing glomerulonephritis; Glomerulonephritis - crescentic; Crescentic glomerulonephritis; Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis

    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:

    • Blood or lymphatic system disorders
    • Exposure to hydrocarbon solvents
    • History of cancer
    • Infections such as strep infections, viruses, heart infections, or abscesses

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

    • Amyloidosis
    • Anti-glomerular basement membrane antibody disease
    • Blood vessel diseases, such as vasculitis or polyarteritis
    • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
    • Goodpasture syndrome
    • Heavy use of pain relievers, especially NSAIDs
    • Henoch-Schonlein purpura
    • IgA nephropathy
    • Lupus nephritis
    • Membranoproliferative GN

    Symptoms

    Common symptoms of glomerulonephritis are:

    • Blood in the urine (dark, rust-colored, or brown urine)
    • Foamy urine (due to excess protein in the urine)
    • Swelling (edema) of the face, eyes, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen

    Symptoms may also include the following:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Blood in the vomit or stools
    • Cough and shortness of breath
    • Diarrhea
    • Excessive urination
    • Fever
    • General ill feeling, fatigue, and loss of appetite
    • Joint or muscle aches
    • Nosebleed

    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:

    • Anemia
    • High blood pressure
    • Signs of reduced kidney function

    A kidney biopsy confirms the diagnosis.

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

    • Nerve inflammation (polyneuropathy)
    • Signs of fluid overload, including abnormal heart and lung sounds
    • Swelling (edema)

    Imaging tests that may be done include:

    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Kidney ultrasound
    • Chest x-ray
    • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

    Urinalysis and other urine tests include:

    • Creatinine clearance
    • Examination of the urine under a microscope
    • Urine for total protein
    • Uric acid in the urine
    • Urine concentration test
    • Urine creatinine
    • Urine protein
    • Urine RBC
    • Urine specific gravity
    • Urine osmolality

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

    • Albumin
    • Anti-glomerular basement membrane antibody test
    • Anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCAs)
    • Anti-nuclear antibodies
    • BUN and creatinine
    • Complement levels

    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:

    • Blood pressure medications to control high blood pressure, most commonly angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers
    • Corticosteroids
    • Medications that suppress the immune system

    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:

    • Chronic kidney failure
    • Reduced kidney function
    • End-stage kidney disease

    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.

    • Acute nephritic syndrome
    • Blood electrolyte problems
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Chronic or repeated urinary tract infection
    • End-stage kidney disease
    • Fluid overload -- congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema
    • Hyperkalemia
    • Hypertension
    • Increased susceptibility to other infections
    • Malignant hypertension
    • Nephrotic syndrome

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You have a condition that increases your risk of glomerulonephritis
    • You develop symptoms of glomerulonephritis

    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).

    References

    Appel GB. Glomerular disorders and nephrotic syndromes. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 122.

    Nachman PH, Jennette JC, Falk RJ. Primary glomerular disease. In: Brenner BM, ed. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 30.

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    • Kidney anatomy

      illustration

      • Kidney anatomy

        illustration

      Tests for Glomerulonephritis

        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.

        The information provided herein 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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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