Glomerulonephritis (GN), also known as glomerular nephritis, is a term used to refer to several kidney diseases (usually affecting both kidneys). Many of the diseases are characterized by inflammation either of the glomeruli or of the small blood vessels in the kidneys, hence the name, but not all diseases necessarily have an inflammatory component.
As it is not strictly a single disease, its presentation depends on the specific disease entity: it may present with isolated hematuria and/or proteinuria (blood or protein in the urine); or as a nephrotic syndrome, a nephritic syndrome, acute kidney injury, or chronic kidney disease.
There are two types of glomerulonephritis—acute and chronic. The acute form develops suddenly. The chronic form may develop silently (without symptoms) over several years. It often leads to complete kidney failure.
Causes acute glomerulonephritis
The acute disease may be caused by infections such as strep throat. It may also be caused by other illnesses, including lupus, Goodpasture’s syndrome, Wegener’s disease, and polyarteritis nodosa. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are important to prevent kidney failure.
Causes chronic glomerulonephritis
Sometimes, the disease runs in the family. This kind often shows up in young men who may also have hearing loss and vision loss. Some forms are caused by changes in the immune system. However, in many cases, the cause is not known. Sometimes, you will have one acute attack of the disease and develop the chronic form years later.
Symptoms of Glomerulonephritis
Early symptoms of acute GN include:
- puffiness in the face (edema)
- urinating less often
- blood in your urine (dark, rust-colored urine)
- extra fluid in your lungs, causing coughing
- high blood pressure
The chronic form of glomerulonephritis can creep up without any symptoms. There may be slow development of symptoms similar to the acute form. Some symptoms include:
- blood or excess protein in your urine, which may be microscopic and show up in urine tests
- high blood pressure
- swelling in ankles and face (edema)
- frequent nighttime urination
- bubbly or foamy urine (from excess protein)
- abdominal pain
- frequent nosebleeds