Glomerulonephritis is a kidney disease in which the glomeruli become inflamed and cannot effectively filter waste out of the bloodstream. The glomeruli are filters in the kidney made up of tiny blood vessels. These filters provide the essential service of filtering the blood by removing waste, electrolytes, and excess fluid from the bloodstream. The filtered waste exits the body by passing through urine.
Acute glomerulonephritis develops suddenly, and chronic glomerulonephritis develops gradually. Glomerulonephritis can occur on its own or with a comorbidity, like diabetes or lupus. Left untreated, glomerulonephritis can cause kidney damage and kidney failure.
The exact cause of glomerulonephritis depends on whether it is acute or chronic.
A rare form of glomerulonephritis, called Alport syndrome, is genetic. Some cases of chronic glomerulonephritis have no clear cause. However, most cases of glomerulonephritis are a result of other conditions.
See below for a list of specific conditions that cause glomerulonephritis.
Symptoms of glomerulonephritis differ based on whether someone has an acute or chronic case, as well as what caused their case of glomerulonephritis.
Acute glomerulonephritis develops quickly. Common acute glomerulonephritis symptoms include:
The chronic form of glomerulonephritis may develop slowly. It often starts without any symptoms at all. Chronic glomerulonephritis might present similar symptoms to acute glomerulonephritis at first. Common chronic glomerulonephritis symptoms include:
Advanced glomerulonephritis might result in kidney failure. Symptoms of kidney failure include:
Other potential complications of glomerulonephritis include:
Aside from Alport syndrome, glomerulonephritis is not necessarily a genetic disease. Some groups have a higher risk of developing glomerulonephritis. The following conditions can either cause or increase the risk of glomerulonephritis:
Glomerulonephritis does not always present symptoms. However, several tests can reveal signs of glomerulonephritis. A doctor might schedule one or more of the following tests to figure out if a patient has glomerulonephritis:
There are several glomerulonephritis treatments. A treatment plan will depend on what type of glomerulonephritis someone has, the cause, and what kind of symptoms the patient has. Treatments for glomerulonephritis include:
Controlling high blood pressure. A doctor might prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, like lisinopril, captopril, and perindopril. Angiotensin receptor blockers, like irbesartan, losartan, and valsartan, are another potential high blood pressure treatment.
Chronic illnesses, like glomerulonephritis, are emotionally taxing. People living with glomerulonephritis might consider joining a support group. Find a glomerulonephritis support group by speaking with a doctor or contacting the nearest National Kidney Foundation chapter.
Glomerulonephritis is unavoidable in many cases. People who have glomerulonephritis can make small changes to lessen their symptoms and prevent another episode from occurring. Basic tips for glomerulonephritis recovery and prevention include:
Certain lifestyle changes might help prevent condition-specific cases of glomerulonephritis, including:
Yes, you should see a doctor for glomerulonephritis. Schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as you develop any concerning symptoms. Not all cases of glomerulonephritis present similarly. A dedicated care team can help you formulate a streamlined treatment plan that meets your specific needs.
People who have glomerulonephritis must see a doctor for routine kidney checks. Ultimately, the outlook for people living with glomerulonephritis depends on which type of glomerulonephritis they have and how early they begin treatment. If a care team catches acute glomerulonephritis early enough, the effects are typically treatable and reversible.
Effective treatment can slow cases of chronic glomerulonephritis. Whether acute or chronic, serious cases of glomerulonephritis can progress into limited kidney function, chronic kidney failure, and end-stage renal disease. A person with glomerulonephritis that leads to severe kidney damage, kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease will likely need to undergo dialysis and a kidney transplant.