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What to Know About Glomerulonephritis

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 10, 2021

Glomerulonephritis refers to acute and chronic kidney diseases caused by injury to the glomerulus, a part of the kidney responsible for filtering blood. 

If the kidney is injured, it is unable to filter blood properly. Over time, the kidney's efficiency decreases, affecting the removal of extra fluid and waste from the body. If the condition is left untreated, it can also cause kidney failure.  In this case, you will need  dialysis, a procedure in which a machine filters your blood since your kidneys can't do it for you. 

The last resort for kidney failure is a kidney transplant.

Some other names for the diseases caused by glomerular injury are nephrotic syndrome and nephritis. 

What Is Acute Glomerulonephritis?

Acute glomerulonephritis occurs suddenly. The most common cause is strep throat or another similar infection. The condition may be a result of other diseases, such as lupus, Wegener's diseases, and Goodpasture's syndrome. 

Early treatment and diagnosis of the condition are essential. Otherwise, it could cause  kidney failure. 

Some acute glomerulonephritis symptoms are an extremely puffy face when you wake up, urinating less than usual, and blood in the urine. 

As fluid enters your lungs, you may feel out of breath. Some people with glomerulonephritis also develop high blood pressure. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, speak to your doctor immediately. 

What is Chronic Glomerulonephritis?

Chronic glomerulonephritis develops without showing any symptoms over a long period, sometimes years. It is dangerous because it causes kidney failure in the long run. The early glomerulonephritis symptoms are: 

  • Blood in the urine 
  • High blood pressure
  • Ankles and face swelling 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • Bubbly urine
  • Frequent urination at night 

This condition can lead to kidney failure. Some symptoms of kidney failure are nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, itchy skin, and muscle cramps at night. 

There can be many causes of chronic glomerulonephritis. Sometimes, the condition is genetic and runs in the family. It's common in young men. They also develop other symptoms like vision and hearing loss. 

Some forms of chronic glomerulonephritis may be due to problems in the immune system. Often, there's no known cause of the diseases. Some people develop an acute form of the condition at one point in their lives and have chronic glomerulonephritis later on. 

How Is Glomerulonephritis Diagnosed?

If you have the symptoms of kidney damage, see your doctor for a thorough exam. The doctor may recommend blood tests to rule out other possible illnesses with the same symptoms. 

Sometimes, doctors may also recommend a kidney biopsy. It's a test where a small part of your kidney is removed with a needle and analyzed in a lab to determine the severity of the damage to your kidney. 

The test results will help your doctor treat the disease.

What Are the Treatments for Glomerulonephritis?

Treatment for glomerulonephritis depends on whether it’s acute or chronic. 

When kidneys don't function properly or stop functioning at all, it's challenging to maintain a standard blood pressure range. In acute conditions, the doctor will give you medications to control your blood pressure. They may also suggest some lifestyle changes to maintain blood pressure. 

If you have symptoms of an immune system malfunction, your doctor will give you corticosteroids. These drugs reduce inflammation in your kidneys.

People with chronic glomerulonephritis are advised to make lifestyle changes. For instance, your doctor may tell you to reduce the amount of potassium, salt, and protein in your diet, since all of these are processed by the kidneys. You may have to take calcium supplements. 

Depending on the extent of damage to your kidneys, your doctor may refer you to a specialist to help you make the right dietary changes. 

Show Sources

SOURCES: 
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Glomerulonephritis."
Mayo Clinic: "Glomerulonephritis."
National Kidney Foundation: "What is Glomerulonephritis?"
University of Rochester Medical Center: "Glomerulonephritis."

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