Glomerulonephritis: Term and Causes

Glomerulonephritis: Term and Causes



Is the term used to describe a group of diseases that damage the part of the kidney that filters blood. When the kidney is damaged, it cannot get rid of wastes and extra fluid in the body. If the illness continues, the kidneys may stop working completely. Some other terms you may hear used are nephritis and nephrotic syndrome.

Symptoms of Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis often doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms.

In severe cases of glomerulonephritis, you may see blood in your urine, but this is usually noticed when a urine sample is tested. Your urine may also be frothy if it contains a large amount of protein.

See your GP if you notice blood in your urine, as it can be caused by many conditions besides glomerulonephritis.

Many people with glomerulonephritis also have high blood pressure.

Causes of Acute Glomerulonephritis (AGN)

In diffuse glomerulonephritis (GN), all of the glomeruli are aggressively attacked, leading to acute renal failure (ARF). Disorders that attack several organs and cause diffuse GN are referred to as secondary causes. Secondary causes of diffuse GN include the following:

  • Cryoglobulinemia
  • Goodpasteur’s syndrome (membranous antiglomerular basement membrane disease)
  • Lupus nephritis
  • Schönlein-Henoch purpura
  • Vasculitis (e.g., Wegener’s granulomatosis, periarteritis nodosa)

Primary diseases that solely affect the kidneys and cause AGN, include the following:

  • Immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgA nephropathy, Berger’s disease)
  • Membranoproliferative nephritis (type of kidney inflammation)
  • Postinfectious GN (GN that results after an infection)

What are the symptoms of glomerular disease?

The signs and symptoms of glomerular disease include:

  • proteinuria: large amounts of protein in the urine
  • hematuria: blood in the urine
  • reduced glomerular filtration rate: inefficient filtering of wastes from the blood
  • hypoproteinemia: low blood protein
  • edema: swelling in parts of the body

One or more of these symptoms can be the first sign of kidney disease. But how would you know, for example, whether you have proteinuria? Before seeing a doctor, you may not. But some of these symptoms have signs, or visible manifestations:

  • Proteinuria may cause foamy urine. Blood may cause the urine to be pink or cola-colored.
  • Edema may be obvious in hands and ankles, especially at the end of the day, or around the eyes when awakening in the morning

Nephrotic syndrome

If a lot of protein leaks into your urine, the amount of protein in your blood can decrease. This is called nephrotic syndrome and it causes fluid to build up in your body (oedema), because the proteins in your blood normally help keep fluid in the blood vessels.
The build-up of fluid often develops in your legs and lower back, although it can also affect your abdomen, face, hands or lungs. In some cases, these areas may swell.

Other symptoms

Depending on your type of glomerulonephritis, other parts of your body can also be affected and may result in symptoms such as:

  • rashes
  • joint pain
  • breathing problems
  • tiredness

Kidney pain

It’s very rare to get kidney pain with glomerulonephritis. If you have kidney pain it’s more likely to have another cause, such as:

  • a kidney infection – this usually occurs when a bacterial infection spreads from your bladder into one of your kidneys
  • kidney stones – stone-like lumps that can develop in one or both of your kidneys

As kidney pain can have several causes, it’s important to see your GP for the correct diagnosis.