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What Is Edema of the Kidney?

If edema leads to kidney failure, an advanced treatment like dialysis becomes necessary.
Polycystic kidney disease can cause edema of the kidney.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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Edema of the kidney is called nephritis. Nephritis can be present in one or both kidneys, and it can have a number of causes, including infection, exposure to chemicals or other toxins, or kidney disease. Certain medical conditions, including lupus and diabetes, are also known to cause the kidneys to become inflamed. Edema is another word for swelling.

It is possible for edema of the kidney to be either acute or chronic. In acute cases, the swelling is an isolated event and is resolved after treatment. Chronic nephritis, on the other hand, is a condition that is either recurrent or constant. This is a serious medical issue and must be treated promptly in an effort to avoid complications, including kidney failure.

Acute nephritis is a common cause of sudden onset inflammation. This condition is often caused because of an adverse reaction to medications, although other causes, such as infection, are possible. Early detection of this condition can prevent long-term damage to the kidney.

Chronic nephritis is a more serious medical condition. and the cause for this type of inflammation is often a corresponding medical condition. Sickle cell disease and high blood pressure are common contributing factors, as is kidney disease, particularly polycystic kidney disease. Toxic conditions such as heavy metal poisoning have also been known to cause nephritis.

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Common symptoms indicating the possibility of edema of the kidney include blood in the urine or swelling of the extremities, including the face. Weakness and fatigue are also frequently reported symptoms. As kidney function begins to decrease, high blood pressure often develops. It is also possible that the brain will swell, leading to headaches or visual disturbances. In severe cases, the swelling of the tissues of the brain can cause such severe symptoms as seizures or coma.

Treatments tend to first focus on contributing causes, so antibiotics for an infection or medications aimed at reducing blood pressure are often the first course of action. In many instances, this type of treatment is sufficient. Unfortunately, if significant kidney damage has been sustained, treatment options are extremely limited.

The only treatments for kidney failure are a kidney transplant or dialysis. A transplant involves the transfer of a healthy kidney to the patient by means of a matching living donor, or, in a significant number of cases, a cadaver kidney obtained from an organ donor. Dialysis involves the patient being connected to a machine that removes the blood from the body, cleans the toxins from the it, and then returns the blood to the body.

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