Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis

Overview

Glomeruli are tiny spherical structures in the kidneys, made of capillaries, where the blood is filtered to produce urine. Glomerulonephritis occurs when the glomeruli become inflamed and are unable to function normally. Acute glomerulonephritis can develop suddenly. Chronic glomerulonephritis may set in over a period of time. Glomerulonephritis can occur on its own or in connection with diabetes or lupus. Severe or prolonged glomerulonephritis could cause permanent loss of function in the kidneys.

Signs and symptoms

Acute glomerulonephritis could occur following a throat or skin infection. Early symptoms include blood in the urine or brown urine, low urine output high blood pressure and puffiness in the morning. The patient may also experience a shortness of breath or chest pain due to excess fluid in the lungs. Chronic glomerulonephritis may develop without showing any symptoms for years. The symptoms for chronic glomerulonephritis, if the patient has, would be the same as acute glomerulonephritis.

Causes and Risk Factors

Acute glomerulonephritis could be caused by an infection such as streptococcal throat infection, Goodpasture’s syndrome, lupus, small vessel vasculitis. Chronic glomerulonephritis like Alports syndrome may run in the family. The disease commonly shows up in young men with hearing or vision loss. Some forms of chronic glomerulonephritis are auto-immune in nature, and in many cases, the cause remains unidentified.

Complications

Acute glomerulonephritis could lead to complications like acute kidney failure, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis for glomerulonephritis is based on a patient physical exam, medical history, blood tests and urinalysis. The presence of proteins and blood cells in the urine is a good indicator of glomerulonephritis. A kidney ultra sound scan may also be required. The doctor may also need to perform a needle biopsy to retrieve a tissue sample from the kidney for testing.

Treatment

The treatment program for glomerulonephritis is dependent on whether it is acute or chronic, its underlying cause and the severity of the patient’s symptoms and potential complications. The acute form sometimes resolves on its own. The patient may be given medication to remove excess fluid build-up in the body and prevent high blood pressure and kidney failure. In some cases, the patient may be treated with dialysis to remove accumulated wastes from the blood stream.

Prevention

It is not entirely possible to prevent glomerulonephritis, but the risk can be minimised by seeking immediate treatment for infections, and keeping blood pressure and blood sugar within healthy levels.

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