Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis is a term used by kidney specialists to describe diseases that cause inflammation and thus damage to the parts of the kidney that filter the blood (called glomeruli).  It is often caused by your immune system attacking your own healthy body tissue. Sometimes terms such as nephritic and nephrotic syndrome are used alongside glomerulonephritis to describe the symptoms and signs a patient has. Glomerulonephritis is sometimes short-lived (acute), but can often last for a long time (chronic) and in some cases the progressive damage that results can lead to end stage kidney failure.

What are the symptoms of glomerulonephritis?

In most cases it doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms. It is often diagnosed when blood or urine tests are carried out for other reasons. In severe cases it can cause visible blood in your urine or your urine can become frothy. Swelling of the legs or other parts of the body (termed oedema) can develop.

What causes glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis is usually the result of a problem with the immune system, which causes it to attack healthy tissue in the kidneys. However, there are many cases where the exact cause is unknown. It can occur by itself or be part of a more general autoimmune condition, such as ANCA vasculitis or lupus.

How is glomerulonephritis treated?

The recommended treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the disease. Kidney specialists are the group of specialist doctors that diagnose and manage the diseases that cause glomerulonephritis.

Mild cases may not need any treatment and in some cases, treatments can be as simple as making changes to your diet, such as eating less salt to reduce the strain on your kidneys. Medications to lower blood pressure, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, are commonly prescribed for glomerulonephritis because they help protect the kidneys.

If the condition is caused by a problem with your immune system, medications called immunosuppressants may be used. Although treatment is effective in many cases, further problems can sometimes develop. These include high blood pressure, damage to other organs, chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.