What is Glomerulosclerosis?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2018
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Glomerulosclerosis is a progressive kidney disorder in which glomeruli, the small blood vessels in the kidneys, become damaged or scarred. The condition is most commonly associated with diabetes, serious infections, and drug abuse, and it severely impacts kidney functioning. Symptoms, which usually do not manifest until late stages of development, include swelling in the extremities, nausea, fatigue, hypertension, and headaches. There is no known cure for glomerulosclerosis, but doctors can ease symptoms and slow its progression with protein-stabilizing drugs. Without treatment, the condition can lead to total renal failure and necessitate emergency dialysis procedures or kidney transplants.

The most common form of glomerulosclerosis occurs in diabetic patients with angiopathy, a disease which causes patients' glomeruli to thicken, weaken, scar, and slow down blood flow. As a result of disrupted glomeruli functioning, individuals experience proteinuria, a release of important proteins from the blood into the urine. Another form of the disorder, called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, results from excessive drug use, adverse reactions to medications, genetic predispositions, and certain types of infections, especially Human immunodeficiency virus. Patients with either type of disorder usually experience similar symptoms and complications.


The signs and symptoms of glomerulosclerosis are usually not prevalent until the disorder has caused irreparable damage. Patients often report feelings of fatigue, nausea, chronic headaches, edema, and high blood pressure, due primarily to proteinuria and decreased kidney functioning. It is essential for an individual experiencing some or all of these symptoms to visit a primary care physician or nephrologist, who can check for kidney problems and make a proper diagnosis. Doctors usually perform urine tests, blood tests, and biopsies to determine whether or not a person's symptoms are related to glomerulosclerosis.

After a diagnosis has been made, a doctor might prescribe immunosuppressant medications to restore protein levels in the blood and prevent future instances of proteinuria. The physician usually combines such medications with specialized diabetes treatments or antiviral drugs to combat the primary causes of the disorder. Unfortunately, renal problems generally progress regardless of treatment, though medications can relieve immediate symptoms and delay complete renal failure. Patients with late- or end-stage glomerulosclerosis often require kidney transplants or immediate dialysis to cleanse and replenish the blood.

Glomerulosclerosis cannot always be prevented, especially when the condition is inherited. Individuals can, however, take steps to reduce the risk of developing this disorder and other kidney problems. Doctors suggest that people maintain healthy diets, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and abstain from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Individuals can also monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and schedule regular checkups with their physicians to ensure healthy renal functioning.



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