Nephropathy is a medical term used to refer to disease or damage in the kidneys. A number of types of nephropathies can be seen in medical treatment, and there are a range of causes and treatments for conditions which involve the kidneys. Untreated, nephropathy can become extremely serious, because functioning kidneys are critical to overall health.
The kidneys act as one of the filtration systems in the body, expressing undesirable substances and retaining useful ones in addition to maintaining normal blood pressure levels. They also produce urine, a fluid which is used to express substances which are not needed by the body. When the kidneys are damaged, the lack of filtration can make people extremely sick. People may develop nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, and this can progress to a full-blown nephropathy.
In some cases, a nephropathy is congenital, caused by a genetic problem which interferes with kidney function. Many congenital forms of nephropathy involve enzyme deficiencies which make it difficult for the body to process certain compounds. People can also acquire disease or damage through the use of certain drugs or lead exposure. Nephropathy is a very common complication of diabetes, resulting from damage to the kidneys caused by high blood sugar, and people with high blood pressure can also develop nephropathy.
One common form of nephropathy is Berger's disease, also known as IgA nephropathy, in which an antibody known as IgA builds up in the kidneys, impairing kidney function and causing an inflammation of some of the structures inside the kidneys. Conditions which involve the kidneys can be diagnosed through samples of blood and urine, along with biopsies, ultrasounds, and other studies which are designed to open a window into the functions of the body.
Treatments focus on determining the cause of the nephropathy and treating it. If the kidneys are overloaded with something the body cannot process, dialysis may be used to replace the filtration normally performed by the kidneys. In extreme cases, kidney transplant is a treatment option for people with kidneys which are so damaged that independent recovery is unlikely.
Someone with a kidney problem can develop difficulty urinating, along with urinary incontinence, bloody urine, edema, changes in blood pressure, nausea, weakness, fatigue, and protein in the urine. It is important to seek treatment for symptoms, especially for people at risk of developing kidney disease, because the earlier medical intervention takes place, the better the prognosis.