Glomerular diseases

A number of different diseases can result in glomerular disease. It may be the direct result of an infection or a drug toxic to the kidneys, or it may result from a disease that affects the entire body, like diabetes or lupus. Many different kinds of diseases can cause swelling or scarring of the nephron or glomerulus.

People with glomerular disease have nephrotic syndrome, which includes edema, or swelling, usually of the ankles, nephrotic-range proteinuria (high level of protein in the urine of 3.5 grams per day or more), hypoalbuminemia, a low-level of the protein albumin in the blood, and high cholesterol. Other problems caused by nephrotic syndrome include high blood pressure, increased risk for getting infections, and blood that clots more than normal.

Other people may not have nephrotic syndrome, but still have some signs of it, such as protein in their urine, edema, and high blood pressure. They may also have other signs that are not part of nephrotic syndrome, such as blood in the urine, inflamed glomeruli, and lower kidney function because of kidney damage. If you have all of these extra signs, then you have nephritic syndrome.

Over time, glomerular disease may stop the kidneys from getting rid of wastes in your blood. When this goes on for a long time, waste builds up in your blood, and you may have chronic kidney disease (kidney disease for 3 or more months). This can then progress to kidney failure (the kidneys stop working).

All of the diseases described here are diagnosed by a kidney biopsy, in which a tiny piece of kidney is examined under a microscope.


The National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (NKF-KDOQI™)