Glomerulonephritis is a medical term referring a series of diseases that affect the kidneys, known as renal disease. It is not one single disease, but one of several that manifest as an inflammation of the glomeruli, which are the filtering unit of the kidneys, or the blood vessels inside the kidneys. The glomeruli are the first step in the process that filters the blood and generates urine.
Glomerulonephritis is therefore an inflammation in the filtration unit of the kidneys and results in either nephrotic syndrome or nephritic syndrome. Nephrotic syndrome occurs when a patient displays increase protein in the urine and decreased protein in the blood, along with increased fat in the blood, indicating an edema. Nephritic syndrome occurs when there is blood in the urine and an increase in renal perfusion, which means decreased urine output.
Symptoms of glomerulonephritis may include pink-tinged urine, foamy urine due to increased protein, hypertension, edema (swelling) in the face or hands, and fatigue. Glomerulonephritis may result from an infection, when the body produced antibodies that settle in the glomeruli, bacterial or viral infections, or as the result of immune diseases, such as lupus.
Glomerulonephritis can damage the kidneys, leading to kidney failure or chronic kidney disease. Treatment options vary from the use of diuretics and other blood pressure medications, to treatment of the underlying causes for glomerulonephritis, or may even require dialysis or transplant.