Glomerulonephritis (gloe-mer-u-low-nuh-FRY-tis) is inflammation of the tiny filters in your kidneys (glomeruli). Glomeruli remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from your bloodstream and pass them into your urine. Glomerulonephritis can come on suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic).
Glomerulonephritis occurs on its own or as part of another disease, such as lupus or diabetes. Severe or prolonged inflammation associated with glomerulonephritis can damage your kidneys. Treatment depends on the type of glomerulonephritis you have.
Signs and symptoms of glomerulonephritis depend on whether you have the acute or chronic form and the cause. Your first indication that something is wrong might come from symptoms or from the results of a routine urinalysis.
Glomerulonephritis signs and symptoms include:
- Pink or cola-colored urine from red blood cells in your urine (hematuria)
- Foamy urine due to excess protein (proteinuria)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Fluid retention (edema) with swelling evident in your face, hands, feet and abdomen
Many conditions can cause glomerulonephritis. Sometimes the disease runs in families and sometimes the cause is unknown. Conditions that can lead to inflammation of the kidneys' glomeruli include:
- Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis: Glomerulonephritis may develop a week or two after recovery from a strep throat infection or, rarely, a skin infection (impetigo). To fight the infection, your body produces extra antibodies that can eventually settle in the glomeruli, causing inflammation.
- Bacterial endocarditis: Bacteria occasionally can spread through your bloodstream and lodge in your heart, causing an infection of one or more of your heart valves. You're at greater risk of this condition if you have a heart defect, such as a damaged or artificial heart valve. Bacterial endocarditis is associated with glomerular disease, but the connection between the two is unclear.
- Viral infections: Viral infections, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and hepatitis C, can trigger glomerulonephritis.
- Lupus: A chronic inflammatory disease, lupus can affect many parts of your body, including your skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs.
- IgA nephropathy: Characterized by recurrent episodes of blood in the urine, this primary glomerular disease results from deposits of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the glomeruli. IgA nephropathy can progress for years with no noticeable symptoms.
There may be no way to prevent most forms of glomerulonephritis. However, here are some steps that might be beneficial:
- Seek prompt treatment of a strep infection with a sore throat or impetigo.
- To prevent infections that can lead to some forms of glomerulonephritis, such as HIV and hepatitis, follow safe-sex guidelines and avoid intravenous drug use.
- Control high blood pressure, which lessens the likelihood of damage to your kidneys from hypertension.
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