What is Glomerulonephritis?

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  • Written By: Adam Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 December 2018
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Glomerulonephritis is a kidney disease which is characterized by the inflammation of small blood vessels in the kidneys known as glomeruli. It can present as a part of kidney failure or as a result of other disorders, and may or may not indicate a problem with the kidney itself. For example, glomerulonephritis could be the result of a bacterial infection, in which nothing is intrinsically wrong with the kidney. Thus, diagnosing the root cause of it is crucial before beginning any treatment. However, the exact cause is unknown in some cases.

The glomeruli are blood vessels which supply blood to the nephrons, the small structures in the kidney which filter contaminants and excess fluids from the blood. When they become inflamed, the kidney is essentially unable to function. Glomerulonephritis can come on suddenly or gradually, and can occur on its own or as a result of another disease. If it happens in the absence of another condition, it is known as primary glomerulonephritis, whereas if it is brought on by diabetes or an autoimmune condition, for instance, it is called secondary glomerulonephritis. The treatment given will depend on what brought on the condition at first.


The possible causes for glomerulonephritis are many. Inflammatory diseases in other areas of the body can lead to it, as well as immune system disorders like lupus. Its root causes can also be genetic, specifically from a gene on the X chromosome. In this case, the mother may pass the gene on to her son. Many times this is completely unknown to the mother, who likely had few or no symptoms of it.

An infection of streptococcal bacteria can also lead to glomerulonephritis in children. This usually occurs at least one week after the initial infection has presented itself. Its symptoms can resemble those of other disorders, so it is necessary to consult with a physician to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

The common symptoms of glomerulonephritis include decreased urinary frequency, and dark brown or rust-colored urine. Sore throat, headache, and joint pain can also be present, and extreme fatigue with difficulty breathing is not uncommon. When glomerulonephritis is caused by an infection, the primary treatment will focus on curing the infection. This may include antibiotics and pain medication. When it is caused by other factors, it is not completely curable, but can be treated in a variety of ways, including through blood pressure medication and diuretics.



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