Glomerulonephritis (pronounced: gluh-mare-you-low-neh-FRY-tis) is a kidney problem.
When someone has glomerulonephritis, tiny filtering units in the kidneys
called glomeruli become
(swollen and irritated) and the kidneys stop working properly.
This can lead to problems like too much fluid in the body, which can cause swelling
in places like the face, feet, ankles, or legs. Glomerulonephritis also can cause
kidney failure and kidney
disease, but that's rare.
Glomerulonephritis can be acute (meaning it comes on suddenly)
or chronic (developing over several months to years). How it's treated
depends on which type a person has.
The good news about glomerulonephritis is that most of the time it gets better
on its own — and, if it doesn't, there's a lot that doctors can do to prevent further
What Causes Glomerulonephritis?
Things that might cause acute glomerulonephritis include:
an infection with streptococcal bacteria (the bacteria that cause strep
immunological problems (like lupus and
Chronic GN can be passed down in families, but sometimes doctors don't know what
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Glomerulonephritis?
With acute glomerulonephritis, these symptoms might come on suddenly, possibly
after a skin infection or a case of strep throat. Chronic glomerulonephritis can take
several months to years to develop, and a person might not notice it right away (unless
a doctor tests for it).
If glomerulonephritis isn't caught early and treated, there's a chance of kidney
damage or failure. Symptoms of kidney failure are:
peeing a lot
lower amounts of pee
lack of appetite
nausea and vomiting
muscle cramps at night
high blood pressure
fluid buildup in the tissues
Someone who has these symptoms might not have kidney failure — many other things
can cause them. But if you notice any of these problems, see a doctor right away to
find out what's going on.
How Is Glomerulonephritis Diagnosed?
If you notice swelling, blood in your urine, or any other symptoms of glomerulonephritis,
talk to a parent and make an appointment to see a doctor. The doctor will
ask you about your symptoms and will probably want to get urine
and blood samples.
Sometimes doctors do imaging scans, like an
, to get a better look at the kidney. In some cases, the doctor will do
while the patient is asleep to take a tiny sample of kidney tissue. The
tissue is sent to a lab for testing, and the results may show why there's inflammation
in the kidney. These kinds of tests help doctors figure out what's going on, what
type of kidney damage is there, and what treatments might help.
How Is Glomerulonephritis Treated?
Sometimes acute glomerulonephritis gets better on its own. Treatment, if needed,
depends on the cause and a person's age and overall health.
When an immune system
problem causes GN, doctors prescribe steroids and other drugs that help suppress the
immune system. Antibiotics can treat a bacterial infection. Some people may need a
treatment to clean the blood using an artificial filter, called dialysis,
if their kidneys are greatly and irreversibly damaged.
To deal with uncomfortable symptoms, doctors may give medicines to lower blood
pressure or help the kidneys make pee and get rid of waste. A person might need to
drink less fluids than usual and eat a diet that's low in protein, salt, and potassium.
In most cases of acute GN, the damage to the glomeruli eventually heals. How long
this takes is different for everyone. Acute GN that doesn't respond to treatment can
There's no specific way to treat chronic glomerulonephritis. To help healing and
prevent more damage to the kidneys, a doctor might recommend that someone:
eat a healthy diet with less protein, potassium, phosphorus, and salt
get plenty of exercise (at least 1 hour a day)
drink less fluids
take calcium supplements
take medicines to lower high blood pressure
When these methods don't help enough to prevent lasting kidney damage, a person
may need dialysis treatments or a kidney
transplant. But most teens with glomerulonephritis don't need these procedures,
and can continue to take part in sports or other activities and live life just like