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What is Crescentic Glomerulonephritis?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Crescentic glomerulonephritis is a potentially serious type of kidney disorder in which blood vessels called glomeruli become irritated, inflamed, and scarred. The condition tends to develop quickly, sometimes resulting in major kidney damage or even renal failure in a matter of months. Other symptoms can include high blood pressure, fever, fatigue, and problems urinating. Early diagnosis and medical treatment are essential in combating worsening symptoms. If crescentic glomerulonephritis does not respond to initial treatment efforts, a patient may need dialysis or a kidney transplant to prevent life-threatening complications.

Glomeruli are the small blood vessels that bring blood into the kidneys. They are involved in the first stage of the filtration process of absorbing important nutrients and converting waste products into urine. The glomeruli may be damaged by severe bacterial or viral infections, medication use, malignant tumors, or autoimmune diseases such as lupus. The exact underlying cause of crescentic glomerulonephritis cannot be pinpointed in many cases. Regardless of the cause, worsening inflammation in the blood vessels leads to tears and characteristic crescent-shaped scars.

Crescentic glomerulonephritis is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 50, but some forms of the disease can affect younger adults and children. The first symptoms typically include unexplained fatigue, muscle weakness, mild fever, and blood in the urine. Some patients also develop high blood pressure, loss of appetite, abdominal pains, and swelling in their faces and extremities. Kidney damage occurs rapidly and symptoms tend to get progressively worse over the course of just a few weeks or months.

Left untreated, crescentic glomerulonephritis may become life threatening. High blood pressure and associated complications can lead to major breathing difficulties, irregular heartbeat patterns, and possibly a heart attack. Total renal failure becomes likely in the late stages of the disease. It is important to seek immediate medical care at the first possible signs of a kidney problem to avoid such complications.

A medical specialist can diagnose crescentic glomerulonephritis by carefully reviewing a patient's symptoms and analyzing the results of blood and urine screenings. Imaging scans or biopsies may be performed as well to determine the extent of physical damage to the glomeruli and surrounding kidney tissue. Additional tests also may be run to identify the underlying cause if possible.

Treatment decisions are made immediately after confirming the diagnosis. Patients who have early-stage crescentic glomerulonephritis are typically put on low-salt diets and given medications to stabilize blood pressure and alleviate inflammation. Immunosuppressive drugs may be prescribed as well if an autoimmune disease is present. Dialysis or transplant procedures are only performed in the event of total renal failure. With careful management and intensive follow-up therapies, most patients who are treated for crescentic glomerulonephritis are able to recover.

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