Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis affects tiny structures found in the kidneys called glomeruli. Glomeruli filter the blood. When they become diseased, the body has difficulty getting rid of waste products and excess water. In severe cases, it leads to kidney failure.

Causes include infection, certain medicines, and very occasionally cancer. The cause often remains unknown. Damage is caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks the glomeruli as if they were a foreign body.

Learn more about Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis symptoms

Often glomerulonephritis causes no symptoms, especially in the early stages. Instead, the condition may be picked up during a routine medical examination, such as a urine or blood test.

However, you might notice one or more of the following:

  • Swollen ankles or puffy face
  • Blood in your urine
  • Headaches
  • Blotchy red skin rash
  • Kidney pain (upper back, behind ribs)
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your GP as soon as possible.

Glomerulonephritis diagnosis

Doctors will look for signs of glomerulonephritis whenever kidney disease is suspected.

Usually, diagnosis follows three steps:

  • Urinalysis - to detect any blood or protein in the urine.
  • Blood test - to look for abnormal antibodies in the blood.
  • Biopsy - to examine a tiny piece of kidney for abnormalities and tissue damage. Not everyone with suspected glomerulonephritis needs to have a biopsy.

Glomerulonephritis treatment

In mild cases, glomerulonephritis may get better on its own. Otherwise, treatment is based on controlling blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage the kidneys further, as well as affect circulation overall. Measures to control blood pressure include:

  • Losing weight.
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Taking blood pressure-lowering medication.
  • Taking diuretics to remove excess fluids.
  • Taking cholesterol-lowering medication.

In rare cases, you may be required to go on dialysis (a machine that 'cleans' your blood) for a short period of time, until kidney function has recovered. If the kidney damage is severe, then regular dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary.

Need more information?

Speak to your GP if you recognise any glomerulonephritis symptoms, or if you want to talk about treatment options.

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