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Kidney anatomy
Kidney anatomy


Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease caused by inflammation of the internal kidney structures (glomeruli), which help filter waste and fluids from the blood.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Glomerulonephritis may be caused by specific problems with the body's immune system, but the precise cause of some cases is unknown. Damage to the glomeruli causes blood and protein to be lost in the urine.

The condition may develop after survival of the acute phase of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis . In about a quarter of people with chronic glomerulonephritis there is no prior history of kidney disease and the disorder first appears as chronic renal failure.

Specific disorders that are associated with glomerulonephritis include:


Chronic renal failure symptoms that may gradually develop include the following:

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

Signs and tests:

Because symptoms develop gradually, the disorder may be discovered when there is an abnormal urinalysis during routine physical or examination for unrelated disorders.

Glomerulonephritis can cause high blood pressure and may only be discovered as a cause of high blood pressure that is difficult to control.

Laboratory tests may reveal anemia or show signs of reduced kidney functioning, including azotemia (accumulation of nitrogenous wastes such as creatinine and urea).

Later, signs of chronic kidney failure may be seen, including edema (swelling), polyneuropathy, and signs of fluid overload including abnormal heart and lung sounds.

Tests that may be done include:

This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:


Treatment varies depending on the cause of the disorder, and the type and severity of symptoms. High blood pressure may be difficult to control, and it is generally the most important aspect of treatment.

Medicines that may be prescribed include:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunosuppressives

Dietary restrictions on salt, fluids, protein, and other substances may be recommended.

Dialysis or kidney transplantation may be necessary to control symptoms of kidney failure and to sustain life.

Support Groups:

The stress of illness can often be helped by joining support groups where members share common experiences and problems.

See: Kidney disease - support group

Expectations (prognosis):

Glomerulonephritis may be a temporary and reversible condition, or it may get worse. Progressive may result in chronic kidney failure and end stage kidney disease.

If nephrotic syndrome is present and can be controlled, other symptoms may be controlled. If it can't be controlled, end-stage kidney disease may result.

Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if disorders associated with increased risk of glomerulonephritis are present, or if symptoms indicating glomerulonephritis develop.


There is no specific prevention for most cases of glomerulonephritis. Some cases may be prevented by avoiding or limiting exposure to organic solvents, mercury , and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics.

Review Date: 8/14/2007
Reviewed By: Charles Silberberg, DO, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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