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Improving Kidney Function in Glomerulonephritis: A Comprehensive Guide

What is Glomerulonephritis? Glomerulonephritis is caused by inflammation of the kidney's glomeruli (a network of blood vessels). A healthy glomeru

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What is Glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis is caused by inflammation of the kidney’s glomeruli (a network of blood vessels). A healthy glomerulus allows waste and extra water to leave the body through the urine while keeping blood cells and protein in the bloodstream. However, with glomerulonephritis, proteins and occasionally red blood cells seep out, causing fluid accumulation and swelling (oedema) in the body. Learn more about the symptoms, factors, and glomerulonephritis treatment in this post. 

Glomerulonephritis can be acute or chronic, and it can be caused by a number of factors, including underlying disorders like diabetes. If the illness is not addressed and the inflammation persists for an extended period of time, the chance of kidney damage grows significantly.

The nephron is the kidney’s smallest filtration unit. A nephron consists of a renal corpuscle and a renal tubule. The glomerulus and the Bowman’s capsule, in turn, produce the renal corpuscle. The glomerulus is the part of the nephron that gets rid of waste and extra fluid from the bloodstream. As a result, it plays a critical function in filtering. Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) is used to estimate the functional capability of the kidneys.

What are the Symptoms of Glomerulonephritis?

Many times, glomerulonephritis doesn’t cause any symptoms, and the condition is only detected when blood and urine tests are done to check for other problems. Glomerulonephritis patients may encounter the following symptoms:

  • Foamy Urine: Glomerulonephritis impairs the filtering function, resulting in a high quantity of protein in the urine, that leads to frothiness in the urine.
  • Haematuria: Blood may flow into the urine as a result of glomerulonephritis – a condition termed as haematuria. In severe situations, the presence of blood can be determined with the naked eye, however, in mild cases, tests are performed to determine the presence of blood in the urine.
  • Oedema: Proteins are responsible for maintaining fluid in blood arteries due to osmotic pressure. When protein levels are low, fluid seeps from blood arteries and accumulates in tissues, causing oedema.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure, commonly known as hypertension, is caused by the kidneys’ release of hormones known as the Renin-Angiotensin system, which regulate blood pressure. As a result of the altered kidney function caused by glomerulonephritis, hypertension may develop.
  • Anaemia: Anaemia-like symptoms may also occur as a result of blood loss. These symptoms include fatigue and a lack of vitality.

What Factors Contribute to Glomerulonephritis?

The majority of glomerulonephritis instances are caused by immune system issues. In certain circumstances, the cause is unknown. Because of these stimuli, the immune system may become hyperactive and assault the glomeruli. Some of the most common causes of glomerulonephritis are as follows:

  • Autoimmune Illnesses: Autoimmune illnesses are one of the most common causes of glomerulonephritis. Lupus is a chronic disease that can affect the kidney as well as other organs like the heart, lungs, and joints. Goodpasture’s disease and IgA nephropathy can also induce glomerulonephritis. IgA nephropathy can cause slow-progressing glomerulonephritis with recurrent haematuria.
  • Infections: The body’s response to infection may cause the immune system to overreact. This can result in glomerulonephritis. Excess antibodies are produced by the body in cases of streptococcal throat infections. Excessive antibodies build up in the glomeruli, causing inflammation. Viral illnesses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and some fungal infections can also cause glomerulonephritis.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: Vasculitis is characterised by blood vessel enlargement or inflammation. Glomerulonephritis can be caused by conditions such as polyarteritis and granulomatosis with polyangiitis.

How to Diagnose Glomerulonephritis?

Most people don’t have symptoms of glomerulonephritis, and the condition is found when urine and blood tests are done as part of a regular checkup or to rule out another disease. The following are some of the tests used to diagnose glomerulonephritis:

  • Blood Tests: A variety of blood tests are performed to assess the physiological function of the kidneys. The level of creatinine in the blood is measured to estimate the glomerular filtering capacity. Blood tests can also be used to determine urea, electrolytes, albumin, and other protein levels, and can also detect the presence of anaemia.
  • Urine Tests: Urine tests are used to detect the presence of protein and blood in the urine. Urea and creatinine are two more chemicals whose excessive levels may be of concern.
  • Imaging Techniques: Various imaging techniques are utilised to detect the presence of any tissue deterioration in the kidneys. X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds are examples of imaging techniques.
  • Kidney Biopsy: A kidney biopsy is required to confirm the existence of glomerulonephritis. A kidney biopsy is a process that involves the removal of a small piece of kidney tissue to be inspected under a microscope for evidence of injury or illness. It may also aid in the diagnosis of glomerulonephritis.
  • Diagnosis of the underlying cause: Several tests are performed to discover the underlying cause of glomerulonephritis. This includes chest X-rays to rule out infection and blood testing to rule out lupus.

What are the Glomerulonephritis Treatment Options?

The goal of treating glomerulonephritis is to keep the condition from progressing. Treatment is started based on the cause. The method of treatment also depends on whether the illness is short-term or long-term and on how bad it is. A nephrologist may advise modifications in food and hydration intake.

  • If the illness is caused by infection, treatment should focus on infection management, particularly in nephrotic syndrome and chronic renal disease. Vaccinations against influenza and pneumonia may also be advised.
  • Plasma exchange is recommended for ANCA vasculitis, a kind of glomerulonephritis.
  • Treatment for underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or autoimmune illness.
  • Immunosuppressants are used to treat glomerulonephritis induced by immunological responses.
  • Dialysis and kidney transplantation may be the sole options in severe cases of glomerulonephritis with renal failure.

Protein and blood in the urine, oedema, electrolyte imbalance, lethargy, and frothy urine are all symptoms of glomerulonephritis. It can be caused by an infection, an autoimmune disease, or being exposed to certain drugs or chemicals. Urine testing, blood tests, imaging techniques, and kidney biopsies are used to make a diagnosis and the goal of treatment is to get to the root of the problem, improve kidney function, and stop the condition from getting worse.

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