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Glomerulonephritis

  • What is Glomerulonephritis?

    Glomurelonephritis (GN) is a kidney disease caused by swelling of the glomeruli (small filters) in your kidney. The role of the glomeruli is to remove excess waste and fluid from your bloodstream into your urine. Glomurelonephritis due to either acute (sudden onset) or chronic (gradual onset) glomeruli inflammation causes the glomeruli to malfunction, thus the kidney is not able to filter properly.

    There are 4 types of glomerulonephritis:

    • IgA nephropathy – kidney disease caused by IgA antibody in the kidney
    • Focal segmental global sclerosis (FSGC) – hardening of some glomeruli and can affect people of all ages
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus – when the body's immune system attacks itself
  • Various conditions can cause glomerulonephritis. They range from kidney infections to infections that affect the entire body.

    • Glomerulonephritis may be caused by an immune system problem. An example would be IgA nephropathy, where the antibody immunoglobulin A deposits in the glomeruli, causing the glomureli to swell. The exact mechanism of IgA nephropathy is not known and the disease may develop for years before it is detected.
      1. Primary glomerulonephritis affects the kidneys directly
      2. Secondary glomerulonephritis is generally caused by bacterial infections (eg. streptococcal throat infection), viral infections (eg. HIV and hepatitis virus infections), heart infections (eg. bacterial endocarditis), cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and abscesses
    • Other autoimmune diseases that lead to GN include lupus and Goodpasture syndrome.
  • Symptoms of glomerulonephritis are often experienced after the glomeruli have been severely damaged. Symptoms may include:

    • Change in urine colour (dark or pink)
    • Foamy urine (due to protein in urine)
    • Headache, sickness, fever and chills
    • High blood pressure
    • Reduced urine production
    • Oedema (swelling of legs, hands and face due to excess fluid retention)
  • Treatment options for glomerulonephritis vary depending on the causes and severity of your symptoms. These include:

    • Blood pressure medicines to control blood pressure
    • Corticosteroids to suppress swelling and relieve symptoms
    • Dietary changes as advised by your doctor, which include control of salt and water intake (to decrease fluid retention) and reducing protein and potassium intake (to minimise waste accumulation in the body)
    • If your condition has progressed significantly, you may require:
    1. Specific medications to suppress the immune system, depending on the cause of your condition
    2. Dialysis support may be required until you reach the end stage of the disease
    3. Plasmapheresis, which is a procedure used to remove excess antibodies from the blood if your GN is caused by an autoimmune disease
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