What is Nephrosclerosis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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Nephrosclerosis is a condition characterized by a thickening and a hardening of the blood vessels in the kidneys. This condition can lead to kidney failure, and it can be very serious. Many older adults have a benign form, which means that their blood vessels are slowly changing, but the changes are not occurring quickly enough to require treatment. For patients with benign nephrosclerosis, it is still a good idea to be aware of the condition and to take steps to prevent the progression speeding up. Other patients have malignant nephrosclerosis, in which case the damage occurs rapidly enough that treatment and intervention are needed.

This condition appears to be more common in adults over 60, and in people of African descent. Some studies have suggested that the higher rate in people of African descent may be related to social factors, rather than genetics, as these individuals sometimes have difficulty accessing health care, especially preventative care. It can occur more commonly in people with chronic hypertension or glomerulonephritis. The condition also causes hypertension, leading to a consistent rise in blood pressure. The high blood pressure can cause headaches, visual disturbances, nausea, and organ damage, among other things.


A doctor can diagnose nephrosclerosis with a blood test to check for levels of several components in the blood, along with urine analysis, a CT scan, and a patient interview to discuss the patient's life history and to determine the onset of symptoms. Doctors may also examine the eyes for signs of damage caused by high blood pressure, especially if a patient reports visual disturbances or problems seeing.

The treatment for nephrosclerosis is to manage the blood pressure. Medications may be used to lower blood pressure, or the patient can attempt to control it with diet and exercise. By keeping blood pressure low, patients can prevent the secondary complications of nephrosclerosis, including organ damage, loss of vision, and kidney failure.

Although some changes to the arteries are inevitable as people age, there are some steps people can take to prevent malignant nephrosclerosis and sclerosis of other areas of the vascular system. Keeping blood pressure controlled is probably the most important step; diet and exercise measures can be taken to keep the blood pressure low and stable. If a patient does start to experience chronic high blood pressure even after following lifestyle recommendations, a doctor should be consulted to see if there is an explanation for the rise in blood pressure.


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Post 1

Since this condition, nephrosclerosis, is a hardening of the arteries inside the kidneys, I don't suppose it could be caused by something that is known to harden arteries in the body over all?

I mean, is nephrosclerosis set apart from other artery-hardening conditions by being a case where only the arteries in the kidneys are hardened, or does it count as nephrosclerosis if the kidneys' arteries are hardened regardless of arteries anywhere else in the body?

The reason that I ask is that I was wondering if the full-body artery hardening caused by long term smoking would be considered nephrosclerosis.

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