Glomerulonephritis is inflammation of small filters in the kidneys (glomeruli). The glomeruli remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from the bloodstream and pass them into urine. Glomerulonephritis can be acute or chronic.

Primary glomerulonephritis occurs on its own while secondary glomerulonephritis may be the result of an underlying condition such as lupus or diabetes. A severe or prolonged inflammation can damage the kidneys.

Treatment for glomerulonephritis depends on the type of glomerulonephritis.



Symptoms of glomerulonephritis include:


  • Pink or cola-colored urine from red blood cells in the urine (hematuria)
  • Foamy urine due to excess protein (proteinuria)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Fluid retention (edema) with swelling in the face, hands, feet and abdomen
  • Fatigue from anemia or kidney failure



Glomerulonephritis can be caused by numerous conditions although sometimes the cause is unknown. Conditions that lead to inflammation of the glomeruli include:




  • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis: Glomerulonephritis may develop after recovery from a strep throat infection or a skin infection (impetigo). The extra antibodies produced may settle in the glomeruli and cause inflammation. Children are at a higher risk of developing post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
  • Bacterial endocarditis: Bacteria can sometimes spread through the blood stream and lodge in the heart, causing an infection of one or more of the heart valves. Bacterial endocarditis is associated with glomerular disease but the exact connection between the two conditions is unclear.
  • Viral infections: Viral infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C can cause glomerulonephritis.


Immune diseases


  • Lupus: Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs.
  • Goodpasture’s syndrome: This is a rare immunological lung disorder that causes bleeding in the lungs as well as glomerulonephritis.
  • IgA nephropathy: This disorder is identified by recurrent episodes of blood in the urine. It results from deposits of immunoglobulin A in the glomeruli.




  • Polyarteritis: A form of vasculitis that affects small and medium blood vessels in various areas of the body such as the heart, kidneys and intestines.
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis: This form of vasculitis affects small and medium blood vessels in the lungs, upper airways and kidneys.


Conditions that may cause scarring of the glomeruli


  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage the kidneys and impair their ability to function. Glomerulonephritis can also cause high blood pressure because it reduces kidney function.
  • Diabetic kidney disease: Diabetic kidney disease or diabetic nephropathy can affect anyone with diabetes. Regular control of blood sugar and blood pressure can prevent or slow kidney damage.
  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis: This condition is characterized by scattered scarring of some of the glomeruli.


Chronic glomerulonephritis can result after acute glomerulonephritis. Without history of kidney disease, the first indication of chronic glomerulonephritis is kidney failure.




Glomerulonephritis can damage the kidney’s filtering ability, which may lead to accumulation of fluid, electrolytes and waste in the body.

Complications of glomerulonephritis include:


  • Acute kidney failure: Damage to the filtering function of the nephron can cause waste products to accumulate rapidly, which requires emergency dialysis.
  • Chronic kidney disease: Chronic kidney disease causes the kidney function to deteriorate and the kidneys gradually lose their filtering ability. In severe cases, dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary to survive.
  • High blood pressure: Damage to the kidneys and waste accumulation in the bloodstream can increase the blood pressure.
  • Nephrotic syndrome: Nephrotic syndrome is characterized by too much protein in the urine, which leads to insufficient protein in the blood. Nephrotic syndrome can also be connected to high blood cholesterol and swelling (edema) of the eyelids, feet and abdomen.



The following steps may help in preventing glomerulonephritis:


  • Prompt treatment for strep infection
  • Safe sex
  • Avoiding intravenous drug use
  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Controlling the blood sugar to prevent diabetic nephropathy