Glomerulonephritis - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the glomeruli. The glomeruli are tiny blood vessels in your kidney that help in filtering out waste products and removing excess electrolytes and water from the body.


What causes glomerulonephritis?


Glomerulonephritis could be due to a variety of reasons. It is generally due to autoimmune injury, that is, when your body’s immune system mistakes its own cells as foreign or infectious. In this way, the own cells of your body are damaged. Diseases that can cause glomerulonephritis are:


Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.:

One of the most common organisms known to cause glomerulonephritis is Group A streptococci, a bacteria that causes sore throat- also known as strep throat.


Goodpasture syndrome, an autoimmune-mediated disease in which antibodies are formed against cells of the kidney and lungs. It results in both lung and kidney damage.


Systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE is an autoimmune disease.


Amyloidosis: Amyloid is an abnormal protein. Amyloidosis refers to the build-up of abnormal proteins in different parts of the body which restricts the normal functioning of that organ. It can occur in a type of blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma.


Granulomatosis with polyangiitis or Wegener’s granulomatosis: It is a disease in which the blood vessels become inflamed.


Polyarteritis nodosa: It is a disease in which the immune cells of your body affect the arteries.


Viral infections: Infections like HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, etc. can cause glomerulonephritis.


IgA nephropathy or Berger’s disease: In this disease, a type of antibody called IgA, attacks the cells of the glomeruli.


Hypertension: in hypertension, your blood pressure remains high and that affects your kidneys, and their function is impaired. Glomerulonephritis itself can also affect your blood pressure and can cause hypertension.


Diabetic nephropathy: It refers to kidney damage in patients with diabetes. Elevated levels of blood sugar can affect your kidneys, causing them to become leaky.


Types of glomerulonephritis:


Based on the appearance of symptoms, glomerulonephritis can be divided into two types, acute and chronic. 


Acute glomerulonephritis is when glomerulonephritis occurs due to any reason, mostly after infection, and resolves with or without treatment. But sometimes, acute glomerulonephritis may not resolve and become chronic. Chronic glomerulonephritis may remain asymptomatic for a long period of time.


Acute and chronic glomerulonephritis may turn into rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis, a condition in which your kidney function starts to deteriorate and progresses towards renal failure.



Symptoms of glomerulonephritis:


Acute glomerulonephritis:


Acute glomerulonephritis may show mild symptoms such as:


Edema: It refers to swelling due to fluid retention. Edema may be first noticeable on the face, around the eyes, and then on the legs.


Hematuria: this means blood in your urine. You may see blood in your urine, which looks dark in color, also called cola-colored urine.


Cough: It is due to fluid retention in the lungs.


Hypertension:  Your blood pressure may be elevated because your kidneys are not functioning properly.


Low urine output: Because your kidneys are unable to function properly, your urine output may decrease.



Chronic glomerulonephritis:


Chronic glomerulonephritis shows no or very few symptoms. However, it may show :


Hypertension


Edema


Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis:


Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis may show the following symptoms:


  • Weakness

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Joint pain

  • Abdominal pain


Acute renal failure (ARF):

When kidney function deteriorates significantly, a condition is known as kidney failure or renal failure. It may show the following symptoms;


  • Itchiness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting 

  • Fatigue or tiredness

  • Difficulty breathing


Diagnosis of glomerulonephritis:

Glomerulonephritis is diagnosed by the following tests:


Blood tests: To check for anemia or different antibodies.


Urine test: To check for protein, glucose, or any other abnormality in the urine.


Kidney biopsy: Kidney biopsy is an invasive procedure in which a piece of tissue is obtained from the kidney and examined under a microscope. It gives a definitive picture and helps in making an accurate diagnosis of the disease.


Treatment of glomerulonephritis:

The treatment of glomerulonephritis depends on many different factors such as the cause and the stage of the disease. One or more of the following treatment options may be used to treat glomerulonephritis:


  • Antibiotics

  • Diuretics

  • Immunosuppressant drugs

  • ACE inhibitors

  • plasma exchange

  • Dialysis

  • Kidney transplant


Acute glomerulonephritis may not need any treatment and may resolve on its own.


Conclusion:

Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease, which can vary in severity. From being a little illness that may resolve on its own to progression to renal failure, this disease has many shades and requires attention. If you notice any symptoms of glomerulonephritis, it is highly advisable to see your healthcare provider.


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