Glomerulonephritis is a term used for several related diseases in which glomerulus, tiny filters in the kidneys, suffer the most. Damage is usually a consequence of inflammation caused by abnormal proteins retained in the glomerulus.
In a healthy kidney, blood passes through the glomerulus and certain chemical compounds are filtered from it (though not all of these compounds are waste-matter). Most of the water and some chemicals that are useful to the body (e.g. glucose) are then returned to the bloodstream.
Remaining waste materials accumulate in the form of urine, and pass into into the bladder. In glomerulonephritis, a damage on the glomerulus negatively affects this process. In most cases, red blood cells pass from glomerulus in the urine. Proteins can also pass from blood to urine; if the loss of protein is excessive, as in children, a disease called nephrotic syndrome occurs. If a large number of glomerulus is damaged, the kidney no loner filtrate and regulates the chemical composition of blood as it should. The waste accumulates in the body, causing the so-called renal insufficiency (see acute renal insufficiency and chronic renal insufficiency articles).
Glomerulonephritis can occur in mild and severe form. It can be acute, i.e. develop in just a few days, or chronic, i.e. develop for months or years.
The mild forms of glomerulonephritis are not accompanied by any symptoms, so the disease is revealed during the urine test that is performed for some other reason. In some cases the urine may be blurred (due to the presence of a small number of blood cells) or light-colored (which is a sign of a larger number of blood cells).
If you have a severe form of acute glomerulonephritis, you will feel generally bad with drowsiness, nausea and vomiting (which are symptoms of one form of renal insufficiency). You will probably release small amounts of urine and there will be accumulation of fluid in the body tissues, which you will notice as a protrusion in the skin, especially around the ankles. If the fluid accumulates in the chest, you will feel a loss of breath.
Glomerulonephritis is not a common disease. In British hospitals only 1 person out of 7000 is treated for this disease annually. Acute form of glomerulonephritis occurs most frequently in children.
All forms of glomerulonephritis are dangerous, primarily because they can lead to renal insufficiency. The disease can also cause high blood pressure as well as anemia since the kidneys play a role in regulating chemical compositions that control blood pressure and create red blood cells.
What to do?
If you have any of the symptoms of glomerulonephritis, contact a doctor who will refer you to urine tests. If the examination indicates the possibility of glomerulonephritis, you will need to stay for a few days at the hospital for additional examinations such as intravenous pyelogram and kidney tissue biopsy.
Many forms of glomerulonephritis are so mild that they do not require special treatment. Some forms can be treated with corticosteroids or cytostatics.
If you have edema, the diuretic will sometimes be helpful. Treatment is needed if you have high blood pressure. If you’ve become anemic because of this disease, you will need iron and vitamin tablets, and maybe blood transfusions. If a renal insufficiency develops due to glomerulonephritis, the doctor will take care of the appropriate therapy.