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Glomerulosclerosis

Glomerulosclerosis refers to scarring or hardening of the glomeruli -- blood vessels located in the kidneys. The glomeruli filter the blood as it passes through the kidneys. They remove waste fluids that then leave the body as urine.

Damaged glomeruli can't perform their job adequately. As a result, large amounts of protein from the blood leak into the urine rather than remaining in the bloodstream. This leads to a condition called proteinuria.

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Glomerulosclerosis can affect children and adults. Men are slightly more likely to develop it. African-Americans are at higher risk than whites.

Causes of Glomerulosclerosis

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is a kidney disease that can lead to glomerulosclerosis. In FSGS, the scarring occurs only in some of the glomeruli. And only part of the individual glomeruli is damaged.

Untreated, it can lead to kidney failure. In some cases, kidney failure can occur despite treatment.

FSGS most frequently occurs without a cause. In such cases it is called idiopathic or primary FSGS. Sometimes, though, FSGS does have a known cause, and these can include:

  • HIV infection
  • Obesity
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Birth defects of the kidneys
  • Heroin or other drug use
  • Genetic causes (in rare cases)

Besides FSGS, glomerulosclerosis can be caused by these diseases:

  • Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • HIV infection
  • Sickle cell disease

Conditions that damage the kidneys can also lead to glomerulosclerosis. These include:

  • Glomerulonephritis, which causes the glomeruli to become inflamed
  • Reflux nephropathy, in which urine flows back into the kidney

Chemicals and medicines that harm the kidneys can also cause glomerulosclerosis.

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