Glomerulonephritis: pathology that affects the most important function of the kidney

Glomerulonephritis is a group of renal diseases that affect a microscopic structure of the kidney, which is the glomerulus. This microscopic structure is responsible for performing the most important function of the kidney, which is filtration. The glomerulus can be affected acutely, subacutely or chronically depending on the rapidity of onset.

Generally glomerulonephritis has an immunological basis, which means that the organism develops antibodies that act on the kidney itself. Sometimes it only affects the kidney and sometimes it can affect other organs in addition to the kidney.

Symptoms of glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis can manifest itself in many different ways from the clinical point of view: the most frequent is an increase in the elimination of proteins (mainly albumin) in the urine, which is known as proteinuria or albuminuria. Depending on the amount of albumin or protein eliminated, this is called nephrotic syndrome or nephritic syndrome.

Another of the most common symptoms is the elimination of blood in the urine which may be imperceptible to the human eye (microhematuria) or frank blood in the urine, generally staining the urine with a brownish color (macrohematuria).

Sometimes it can affect kidney function producing renal failure, which can be acute or chronic. Other times they can be secondary to different situations: neoplasms, viral diseases, drugs, etc.

Diagnosis of glomerulonephritis

To confirm the diagnosis it is necessary to perform a biopsy of the kidney. The biopsy will give us information about: if it is acute or chronic, degree of inflammatory activity, presence or absence of immune deposits, etc…

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Some entities are more frequent in children, such as minimal change glomerulonephritis or postinfectious glomerulonephritis. The rest are more frequent in adults with different age profiles: IgA nephropathy in adolescents and young adults, rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis usually has two age profiles (associated to anti-glomerular basement membrane antibodies more frequent in young people and the one associated to ANCAs more frequent in patients aged 60-70 years). The rest of glomerulonephritis does not have a defined age profile.

There is a specific treatment in most of the primary cases, in the secondary cases the disease causing the glomerulonephritis must be treated.