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  • What is glomerulonephritis?

    Glomurelonephritis (GN) is a kidney disease caused by the swelling of the small filters in your kidney (known as glomeruli). The role of the glomeruli is to remove excess waste and fluid from your bloodstream into your urine. Glomurelonephritis due to either a sudden onset of glomeruli inflammation (acute), or a gradual onset (chronic) causes the glomeruli to malfunction, and the kidney is not able to filter properly.

    There are 4 types of glomerulonephritis:

    • IgA nephropathy
    • Focal segmental global sclerosis (FSGC)
    • Membranous glomurelonephritis
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • There are various conditions that can cause glomerulonephritis. They range from kidney infections to infections affecting the whole body.

    • Glomerulonephritis may be caused by a specific immune system problem (autoimmune disease). One such example would be IgA nephropathy, where antibody (immunoglobulin A) deposits in the glomureli, causing the glomureli to swell. The exact mechanism of IgA nephropathy is not fully understood, and the disease can develop for years before it is detected.
      1. Primary glomerulonephritis affects the kidneys directly
      2. Secondary glomerulonephritis is generally due to bacterial infections (streptococcal throat infection), viral infections (HIV and hepatitis viruses’ infections), heart infections (bacterial endocarditis), cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and abscesses
    • Other autoimmune diseases that lead to GN include lupus and Goodpasture’s syndrome.
  • The symptoms of glomerulonephritis are often experienced when the glomeruli are severely damaged. Symptoms may include:

    • Changes in urine colour (dark or pink)
    • Foamy urine (due to protein in urine)
    • Headache, sickness, fever and chills
    • High blood pressure
    • Reduced urine production
    • Swelling of legs, hands and face due to excess fluid retention (oedema)
  • The treatment options for glomerulonephritis vary depending on the causes and severity of your symptoms. These include:

    • Blood pressure medicines to control blood pressure
    • Corticosteroids to suppress swelling and relieve symptoms
    • Dietary changes as advised by your doctor which include control of salt and water intake (to reduce fluid retention), and cutting back protein and potassium intake (to minimise waste accumulation in the body)
    • If your condition has progressed significantly, you may require:
    1. Specific medications to suppress the immune system, depending on the cause of your condition
    2. Dialysis support may also be required until end-stage is reached
    3. Plasmapheresis, which is a procedure used to remove excess antibodies from the blood if your GN is caused by an autoimmune disease

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