Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis is a condition in which the filters of the kidneys become inflammed.  Some forms of glomerulonephritis are "acute", which means that they come on suddenly, and generally recover on their own.  Other types are "chronic", which means that they may linger on for a long time and usually require some therapy.

Symptoms and Causes

Children with glomerulonephritis usually have blood and protein in their urine.  Sometimes, there is so much blood the urine is a smokey color; more often, the blood is only visible under the microscope.  In addition to the urine findings, children with glomerulonephritis may have hypertension (high blood pressure), edema (generalized swelling), and changes in the levels of certain chemicals in the blood. 

There are a variety of causes of glomerulonephritis.  Many of these come from abnormal activation of the body's usual response to infection.  For example, glomerulonephritis may follow a strep throat.  Other forms of glomerulonephritis are inherited, genetic disorders.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Children with suspected glomerulonephritis require careful evaluation by a nephrologist.  This evaluation begins with a number of blood and urine tests, and ultimately may require a kidney biopsy.  Once the cause of glomerulonephritis is determined, the nephrologist will discuss treatment.  Most of the treatment will be directed at control of symptoms.  For example, blood pressure medication for hypertension or diuretics ("water pills") for edema.  Other types of glomerulonephritis may respond to specific therapy, such as a steroid drug.

Regardless of the cause or recommended treatment, all children with glomerulonephritis require regular and careful follow up by a nephrologist.  Fortunately, it is very rare for glomerulonephtitis to cause complete loss of kidney function and the need for dialysis or kidney transplant.

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