Glomerulonephritis (GN) is a medical condition due to inflammatory changes in the glomeruli, the bed of tiny blood vessels that starts the filtering process in the kidney. It can be sudden onset (acute) or chronic (gradually developing). Depending on the the cause, glomerulonephritis can be primary in that it occurs on its own or secondary when it is due to some other disease. It can lead to renal failure where there is a complete shutdown of kidney function. It is an important type of kidney disease in seniors because it can arise with long standing diabetes mellitus and hypertension, two common chronic ailments in the senior years.
Commonly occurring symptoms of glomerulonephritis, irrespective of the cause includes :
Other associated symptoms depending upon the cause of glomerulonephritis includes :
Glomerulonephritis can cause damage to the filtering tubules of the kidney thereby compromising its normal activities. As a result there is accumulation of toxic waste products in the body which lead to further damage to the kidney as well as other organs.
These complications of glomerulonephritis includes :
There are number causes that can lead to glomerulonephritis, although sometimes the exact cause cannot be identified. Some causes are more likely to be seen in younger adults and children, while other cause are more frequently encountered in the elderly. It is, however, important to consider all possible causes.
In immune-related causes of glomerulonephritis, the immune system attacks different tissues throughout the body and may also target the glomeruli of the kidneys. These diseases include :
The glomeruli may become damaged due to injury that is neither related to an infection or immune factors. These are common causes of glomerulonephritis in the elderly. The two most likely causes includes :
People who are at a greater risk of glomeruli damage, apart from infectious and immune causes, includes those with :
Treatment depends upon the cause, severity or nature of glomerulonephritis. Acute cases may require more aggressive treatment but can even resolve spontaneously in some cases without any need for treatment. Chronic glomerulonephritis needs ongoing treatment. Apart from treating the kidney dysfunction, the treatment should also be directed at the underlying cause which can then ease glomerulonephritis or at least prevent it from progressing rapidly. Treatment may include :
Kidney failure is usually managed with dialysis and kidney transplantation.