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Nephritic syndrome, also called glomerulonephritis, is an inflammation of the kidneys. The disorder damages or destroys the glomeruli, which are tiny blood vessels inside the kidneys that filter out excess fluids and waste materials. Nephritic syndrome can lead to kidney failure if it is left untreated.
Several conditions cause nephritic syndrome. People who have autoimmune disorders such as lupus are more likely to develop this condition. It occurs in children who have recently recovered from bacterial infections such as streptococcus or chicken pox. Some people inherit nephritic syndrome as a genetic abnormality, while many people develop the condition for no apparent reason.
Many patients do not experience any symptoms at all. Other people may complain of not feeling well, or act tired and sluggish. Some people experience headaches, loss of appetite, and muscle pain or joint tenderness, while others become confused and drowsy. Some people with the condition may also cough up foamy pink mucus.
Other symptoms include puffiness or swelling in various parts of the body, including the face, legs and ankles. The patient's urine may appear brown or rust-colored, because of the presence of red blood cells. Some people urinate frequently, while others urinate only small amounts or not at all. Nosebleeds, high blood pressure and vision problems may also occur.
A doctor who suspects nephritic syndrome will review the patient's medical history, perform a complete physical, and run a variety of tests. He will look for symptoms such as an enlarged liver, excess fluid in the tissues, and other signs of sudden kidney failure. The doctor will run blood tests to look for anemia or high white blood cell counts, while a urinalysis can tell him whether there is blood in the urine. He may also insert a needle into the kidney to extract a small amount of tissue. This process, called a biopsy, helps determine what is causing the problem.
The patient's prognosis depends on the condition causing the nephritic syndrome. The doctor may prescribe bed rest or recommend that the patient consume less salt or protein until his kidneys improve. He may also prescribe corticosteroids to treat the damaged glomeruli or recommend antibiotics to treat any existing infections.
Many of the symptoms of nephritic syndrome are so general that many people do not know they are seriously ill until they are diagnosed with kidney failure. Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to effectively filter out toxins. Patients with serious or long-term kidney disease usually require a transplant or dialysis therapy.