What is Nephritis?

Nephritis is a general term used to describe a group of diseases that cause swelling or inflammation of the glomerulus in the kidneys. This disease reduces the kidney’s ability to filter waste from blood.

These two bean-shaped kidneys that humans have are a sophisticated waste removal system. Kidneys process 120 to 150 quarts of blood/day and remove up to 2 quarts of waste products and excess water.

Acute nephritis is observed when the kidneys suddenly become inflamed. It has several causes and can lead to kidney failure if left untreated.

Nephritis Meaning: Inflammation of kidneys due to infection or several other factors.

Nephritis Causes

There are several causes behind nephritis. These can be due to infection or toxins, however, it is commonly caused by autoimmune disorders that affect the major organs like kidneys.

  • Pyelonephritis is an inflammation that occurs due to a urinary tract infection that reaches the renal pelvis of the kidney.

  • Lupus nephritis is the inflammation of kidneys caused by a disease of the immune system called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

  • Athletic nephritis occurs due to strenuous exercise. Bloody urine after strenuous exercise may also result from March haemoglobinuria. It is caused by rupturing red blood cells, due to trauma leading to the release of haemoglobin into the urine.

Types of Nephritis

A summary of several types of nephritis are described below:

  • Acute Glomerulonephritis: This type of  nephritis can develop suddenly after a severe infection, such as strep throat, hepatitis etc. Lupus and rarer disorders, such as vasculitides and granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), can also be the cause for acute inflammation of the kidneys. Prompt medical attention should be given to the patient else it can lead to kidney damage.

  • Lupus Nephritis: It is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the body. The disease occurs when the immune system attacks the kidneys. It is mostly seen in people suffering from Lupus.

The Symptoms of Lupus Nephritis Include:

  • Foamy urine.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet.

  • Joint problems.

  • Fever.

  • Rashes.

The disease does sometimes go into remission, the condition can become serious. It is vital for anyone experiencing symptoms of lupus nephritis to seek prompt medical attention to reduce kidney damage.

  • Hereditary Nephritis: Also known as Alport syndrome, this disease can lead to kidney failure, as well as hearing and vision problems. The condition is passed on in the genes, and it is usually severe in men.

  • Chronic Glomerulonephritis: This form of chronic nephritis develops slowly and causes few symptoms in its early stages but can cause severe kidney damage if the symptoms are not well-diagnosed and the condition is left untreated. 

  • IgA Nephropathy: It is a very common form of nephritis and develops when IgA antibody deposits build up in the kidneys and cause inflammation. The immune system forms antibodies to fight harmful substances and organisms that enter the body. People with IgA neuropathy have defective IgA antibodies. It is not generally observed in young people, as the early symptoms are easy to miss. The condition can be treated with blood pressure medications.

  • Interstitial Nephritis: It can develop very rapidly and usually occurs due to infection or a particular medication. It affects the interstitium, which is a fluid-filled space of the kidney. If the affected individual off the problematic medication quickly, a full recovery is possible can happen within a few weeks.

Nephritis Symptoms

The most common symptoms of nephritis are:

  • Pain in the pelvis.

  • Pain in the kidney area or abdomen.

  • Pain or a burning sensation while urinating.

  • Frequent need to urinate.

  • Cloudy urine.

  • Blood or pus in the urine.

  • Swelling in the face, legs, and feet.

  • Vomiting.

  • Fever.

  • High blood pressure.

Nephritis Diagnosis

Finding protein in the urine can indicate that the kidneys are not functioning properly. A blood test measuring a waste product in the blood called creatinine can also provide information on the health of the kidneys. Another important indicator is blood urea nitrogen.

However, a biopsy is the most efficient way to check for nephritis. A renal biopsy involves testing an actual tissue sample from the kidney, this test isn’t performed on everyone. This test is performed if a person isn’t responding well to treatments, or if a doctor must definitively diagnose the condition.

A CT scan or renal ultrasound can show a blockage or inflammation of the kidneys or urinary tract.

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Nephritis Treatment

There are several types of nephritis and each has different characteristics. The best course of treatment can only be decided after the nephritis has been correctly identified by examining the sample removed by a kidney biopsy. There are various types of nephritis which require observation but no treatment and rarely lead to long‐term kidney damage.

Other people may need blood pressure medication. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have proven to be an effective treatment for both decreasing blood pressure and reducing the amount of protein in the urine. Reducing blood pressure and the amount of proteinuria is associated with improved outcomes. A diuretic is often prescribed as well. If kidney function is severely impaired dialysis may be needed.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1: What are the Complications Associated with Nephritis?

A: Acute nephritis if not well-treated can result in :

  • Acute kidney failure, meaning, the loss functionality of kidneys especially the loss of the faltering part of nephrons which results in the accumulation of waste products in the body.

  • Chronic Kidney Disease: Your kidneys will gradually lose its functionality.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Nephrotic syndrome.

Q2: How can we Prevent Nephritis?

A: There are several ways to prevent nephritis. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Eating a nutritious, balanced diet.

  • Exercising regularly.

  • Quitting smoking.

  • Keeping blood pressure and blood sugar levels within healthy limits.

Q3: What are Pyelonephritis and Glomerulonephritis?

A: Pyelonephritis: Pyelonephritis is the inflammation of the kidney due to a bacterial infection. In most of the cases, the infection starts within the bladder and then migrates up the ureters and into the kidneys. 

Glomerulonephritis: It is a type of acute nephritis where inflammation of the glomeruli takes place. The glomeruli are tiny capillaries that transport blood and also function as filtering units. Damaged and inflamed glomeruli may not be able to filter the blood properly.

Q4: What are the Causes of Acute Nephritis?

A: Please have a look at the nephritis causes section.