A type of kidney disease, glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the tiny filters that remove waste products from the blood.
Glomerulonephritis occurs when the glomeruli—clusters of tiny blood vessels at the end of each kidney tubule—become irritated, inflamed and eventually damaged. The glomeruli perform the important function of filtering excess fluids and waste products from the bloodstream.
Causes of Glomerulonephritis
There are two types of glomerulonephritis: acute and chronic. Acute glomerulonephritis can result from an infection elsewhere in the body, such as strep throat, or it may be caused by another medical condition, such as:
- Goodpasture’s syndrome
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly known as Wegener’s disease)
- Polyarteritis nodosa
Chronic glomerulonephritis sometimes runs in families. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, the condition is frequently diagnosed in young men who also have vision and hearing loss.
Symptoms of Glomerulonephritis
Acute glomerulonephritis usually strikes suddenly, sometimes after a throat or skin infection. The symptoms can include:
- Facial puffiness, especially in the morning
- Infrequent urination
- Blood in the urine
- Coughing and shortness of breath
- High blood pressure
Chronic glomerulonephritis usually develops slowly and silently over several years.Over time, the glomeruli gradually lose their ability to filter the blood. As toxins build up in the body, noticeable symptoms may develop, such as:
- Swelling in the face or ankles
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Foamy or bubbly urine
- Blood or protein in the urine
- High blood pressure
If left untreated, both acute and chronic glomerulonephritis can lead to end-stage renal failure, a medical emergency that occurs when the kidneys stop working. The signs of kidney failure can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleep difficulties and fatigue
- Dry, itchy skin
- Nighttime muscle cramps
Diagnosis of Glomerulonephritis
Usually, the diagnostic process begins with a urinalysis to measure the amount of blood and protein in the urine, followed by a blood test to evaluate kidney function. In some cases, a kidney biopsy is performed. Using a special needle, a physician will remove a tiny sample of kidney tissue for evaluation under a microscope.
Treatments for Glomerulonephritis
Acute glomerulonephritis may resolve on its own, but in many cases, medication or dialysis is needed to control the condition. If end-stage renal failure occurs, a kidney transplant may be considered.
Tampa General Hospital accepts many transplant candidates who have been diagnosed with glomerulonephritis. Our highly skilled surgeons have the expertise required to perform kidney transplants in even the most challenging cases.