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Nephrotic syndrome is
a sign that your
kidneys aren't working right. As a result, you have:
You may also have high levels of cholesterol in your blood.
Nephrotic syndrome isn't a disease. It's a warning that something is damaging your kidneys. Without
treatment, that problem could cause kidney failure. So it's important to get
treatment right away.
Nephrotic syndrome can occur at any age. But
it is most common in children between the ages of 18 months and 8 years.
The kidneys have tiny
blood vessels called glomeruli that filter waste and extra water from the
blood. Healthy kidneys keep the
right amount of protein in the blood. Protein
helps move water from the tissues into the blood. When the tiny filters are damaged, too much protein slips from the
blood into the urine. As a result, fluid builds up in
the tissues and causes swelling.
Nephrotic syndrome is often caused by:
Many other things can cause the
blood vessel damage that leads to nephrotic syndrome, including:
Sometimes doctors don't know what causes it.
Symptoms may include:
diagnose nephrotic syndrome using:
kidney biopsy may be done to find the cause.
also have other tests to identify what is causing nephrotic syndrome.
Treatment aims to reverse,
slow, or prevent further kidney damage. The treatment you need depends on
your age and what health problem is causing nephrotic
Some people may not need medicine if they are at low risk for problems or are getting better on their own. Others may need medicines that decrease the body's immune system response. These include:
Nephrotic syndrome can lead to other problems that may need treatment, including high blood pressure, blood clots, and high cholesterol or triglycerides. You might need medicines to treat these problems, such as:
Young children who get treatment usually get
better and have no lasting problems. Often treatment is not as successful in
older children and adults. If your
symptoms are severe or they come back, you may need treatment for
months to years, or even for the rest of your life.
If treatment doesn't stop the kidney damage,
you may develop
chronic kidney disease.
If you have nephrotic syndrome, it's important to:
There are also things you can do to reduce your symptoms and prevent other
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about nephrotic syndrome:
Living with nephrotic syndrome:
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information
Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) provides information about diseases of the
kidneys and urologic system to people with these problems and to
their families, to health professionals, and to the public. NKUDIC answers
inquiries; develops, reviews, and distributes publications; and works closely
with professional and patient groups and government agencies to
coordinate resources about kidney and urologic diseases.
NKUDIC, a federal agency, is a service of the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). NIDDK is part
of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and
The National Kidney Foundation works to prevent kidney
and urinary tract diseases and help people affected by these conditions. Its
website has a lot of information about adult and child conditions. The site
has interactive tools, donor information, recipes for kidney disease patients,
and message boards for many kidney topics. Free materials, such as brochures
and newsletters, are available.
Other Works Consulted
Kodner C (2009). Nephrotic syndrome in adults: Diagnosis and management. American Family Physician, 80(10): 1129–1134.
Lee BK, Vincenti FG (2013). Diagnosis of medical renal disease. In JW McAninch, TF Lue, eds., Smith and Tanagho's General Urology, 18th ed., pp. 529–539. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lewis JB, Neilson EG (2012). Glomerular diseases. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2334–2354. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Palmer LS, Trachtman H (2012). Renal functional development and diseases in children. In AJ Wein et al., eds., Campbell-Walsh Urology, 10th ed., vol. 4, pp. 3002–3027. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Praga M et al. (2011). Primary glomerular diseases In ET Bope et al., eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2011, pp. 714–719. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Watnik S, Dirkx T (2012). Kidney disease. In SJ McPhee, MA Papadakis, eds., 2012 Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 51st ed., pp. 874–911. New York: McGraw-Hill.
May 8, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Tushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
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