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Glomerulonephritis: all about this kidney condition

Glomerulonephritis is a kidney disease that can have different origins. It affects the glomeruli, structures essential for the proper functioning of the kidneys. It requires medical attention because it can lead to kidney failure.

What is glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis, sometimes called nephritis or nephrotic syndrome, is a condition of the glomeruli in the kidneys . Also called Malpighian glomerulus, a renal glomerulus is an essential structure for the proper functioning of the kidneys. Composed of a mass of blood vessels, the glomerulus allows filtration of blood. This mechanism not only eliminates waste in the bloodstream but also maintains a good balance of minerals and water in the body.

The different types of glomerulonephritis?

Depending on the duration and evolution of the condition, we can distinguish:

  • acute glomerulonephritis , which appears suddenly;
  • Chronic glomerulonephritis, which develops over several years.

We can also distinguish:

  • primitive glomerulonephritis , when the affection is manifested at the level of the kidneys;
  • Secondary glomerulonephritis, when the condition is the consequence of pathology.

What are the causes of glomerulonephritis?

The diagnosis of glomerulonephritis is complex because this condition can have many origins:

  • a hereditary origin ;
  • metabolic dysfunctions ;
  • an autoimmune disease , such as systemic lupus (lupus glomerulonephritis) or Goodpasture’s syndrome;
  • an infection , such as strep throat (post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis) or a dental abscess;
  • A malignant tumor.

In nearly 25% of cases, glomerulonephritis is said to be idiopathic, that is, the exact cause is unknown.

What is the risk of complication?

Glomerulonephritis requires rapid medical management to reduce the risk of complications. In the absence of medical treatment, this condition of the renal glomeruli causes:

  • electrolyte imbalances , with high levels of sodium in the body, which in particular increases the risk of cardiovascular disease;
  • water retention within the body , which promotes the occurrence of edema ;
  • Failure of renal function, which can lead to kidney failure .

When glomerulonephritis is caused by an infection, it can spread to other parts of the body, especially the urinary tract.

How does glomerulonephritis manifest it?

The development of glomerulonephritis is variable. It may be sudden during acute or slow glomerulonephritis during chronic glomerulonephritis. The symptoms may also be different. Chronic glomerulonephritis can indeed be invisible, asymptomatic, for several years before revealing the first symptoms.

When it manifests itself, glomerulonephritis is usually accompanied by several phenomena:

  • a decrease in the frequency of urination;
  • hematuria , characterized by the presence of blood in the urine;
  • proteinuria , characterized by the presence of protein in the urine, which often results in albuminuria, that is to say the presence of albumin in the urine;
  • hypertension blood, which is a common consequence of renal failure;
  • an edema , which is another consequence of poor kidney function;
  • of headache that may be accompanied by malaise;
  • Of abdominal pain , in the most severe forms.

What is the treatment of glomerulonephritis?

The treatment of glomerulonephritis depends on its origin and its evolution.

In first intention, a drug treatment is generally put in place to reduce the symptoms and to limit the risk of complication. A health professional usually prescribes:

  • antihypertensives to control blood pressure and limit high blood pressure, a common symptom of glomerulonephritis;
  • Diuretics to increase urine output and frequency of urination.

Other drugs may then be prescribed to treat the cause of glomerulonephritis. Depending on the diagnosis, the health professional may, for example, prescribe:

  • antibiotics, particularly in case of post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, to stop kidney infection;
  • Corticosteroids and immunosuppressants, especially in case of lupus glomerulonephritis, to decrease the immune response.

In addition to medicinal treatment, a specific diet may be established in case of glomerulonephritis. This diet is generally depleted of protein and sodium, and is accompanied by a control of the volume of water ingested.

When the risk of kidney failure is high, dialysis can be set up to ensure the filtration function of the kidneys. In the most serious forms, a kidney transplant can be considered.

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