What is glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease. It involves damage to the glomeruli (tiny filters) inside your kidneys. If you have glomerulonephritis, your kidneys can have trouble removing waste and fluid from your body. If the condition becomes severe, it can lead to kidney failure. Healthcare providers abbreviate glomerulonephritis as GN and sometimes call it glomerular disease.

How do glomeruli help your kidneys?

Glomeruli are filtering units made of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in the kidneys. They filter the blood and remove waste and extra fluid from the blood — the first step as the body makes urine (pee).

Are there different types of glomerulonephritis?

When glomerulonephritis starts suddenly, it’s called acute glomerulonephritis. When it happens slowly and lasts awhile, it’s called chronic glomerulonephritis. Some people can have an acute attack and then a chronic condition years later.

What causes glomerulonephritis (GN)?

The reason glomerulonephritis appears is often unknown. But causes may include:

  • Genetics, meaning it runs in the family (this is rare).
  • Anti-GBM disease (formerly Goodpasture syndrome), a group of diseases affecting the lungs and kidneys.
  • Secondary to endocarditis, an infection in the heart valves.
  • Secondary to other viral infections, such as strep throat, HIV or hepatitis C.
  • Problems with the immune system attacking healthy parts of the body, such as with lupus.
  • Rare diseases that inflame blood vessels like granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly Wegener’s disease), microscopic polyangiitis, Henoch-Schönlein Purpura, or eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly Churg-Srauss Syndrome).

What are the symptoms of glomerulonephritis?

People with glomerulonephritis often don’t experience signs of the condition. But symptoms can include:

  • Blood in the urine, which may make the pee look brown, pink or red.
  • Fatigue, nausea or a rash.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) or shortness of breath.
  • Pain in the joints or abdomen (belly area).
  • Peeing less often or more often than normal.
  • Swelling in the legs or face.
  • Urine that’s foamy.

If you have one or more of these symptoms, contact a healthcare provider.

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