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Nephrotic syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Nephrotic syndrome is an alteration of the kidneys that can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, which can range from an injury caused by an alteration in the kidneys to being a consequence of certain systemic diseases, such as diabetes. Some of the symptoms of nephrotic syndrome can be easily detected by the patient, however many others can go unnoticed masked under other more obvious diseases, and can even cause quite serious problems such as acute kidney failure. That is why in this FastlyHealarticle we discuss the topic of nephrotic syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment so that you know how to recognize the earliest signs of the disease and what to do about it.

What is nephrotic syndrome

Nephrotic syndrome is a disorder that affects the kidneys in the structure that is responsible for filtering the blood to form the urine that will be excreted, which is known as the glomerulus. This structure in patients affected by this syndrome loses the ability to retain certain elements of the blood that, with normal functioning, are normally filtered to return to the bloodstream and not excrete excessively. Typically, nephrotic syndrome is characterized by the presence of five abnormalities in laboratory results :

  • Proteinuria: which is the increased excretion of protein in the urine.
  • Hypoalbuminemia: which is the decrease in blood levels of a protein called albumin.
  • Hyperlipidemia: increased cholesterol levels.
  • Lipiduria: which is the excessive excretion of lipids in the urine.
  • Localized edema : these edema are found especially in the legs, due to fluid retention.

Causes of nephrotic syndrome

Nephrotic syndrome is usually a consequence of other diseases that affect the kidney and end up altering its permeability. These diseases can directly affect the kidney producing a primary nephrotic syndrome or they can be due to the alteration of some metabolic process producing a secondary nephrotic syndrome .

Among the most common causes of primary nephrotic syndrome are the different types of glomerulonephritis , which are generally kidney conditions that cause inflammation of the glomerulus and over time affect its filtering capacity. The most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in children is a condition called minimal change disease, which affects the permeability of the vascular elements of the kidney by altering blood pressure.

The secondary nephrotic syndrome is most frequently caused by diabetes , but it can also be produced by autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus or Sjögren’s syndrome, hepatitis B , multiple myeloma, cancer, drug abuse, among other causes.

Symptoms of nephrotic syndrome

The most notable change in patients suffering from nephrotic syndrome is the formation of edema in the body as a result of fluid retention , which begins in the legs and rises to the abdominal region and can also affect the arms and face.

Another characteristic of this disease is that as a result of excessive protein in the urine, it becomes more foamy. As a result of the loss of proteins, the affected person may be more sensitive to infections since it decreases the response capacity of the immune system, increases the chances of thrombosis and malnutrition may occur.

In the most serious cases, the affected person can develop acute renal failure , which must be treated soon as it can put the patient’s life at risk.

Diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome

The doctor will perform a physical examination but, in addition, laboratory tests are essential to assess the levels of albumin and cholesterol in the blood and the amount of protein excreted in the urine, which will have evaluated three important elements to make a diagnosis nephrotic syndrome. The most frequent tests are the following:

  • Cholesterol blood test
  • Creatinine blood test
  • Albumin blood test
  • Blood chemistry tests (basic metabolic tests and comprehensive metabolic tests)
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • Complete urinalysis and especially creatinine clearance

In some cases the doctor may see a biopsy of the affected kidney necessary and, in addition, may need to do some of the tests to rule out causes such as the following.

  • Antinuclear antibody
  • Rheumatoid factor
  • Cryoglobulins
  • Serum protein electrophoresis (EPS)
  • Urinary protein electrophoresis (EPU)
  • Glucose tolerance test
  • Hepatitis B and C antibodies
  • HIV test
  • Syphilis serology

Nephrotic syndrome treatments

The treatment of nephrotic syndrome relies on relieving symptoms as the factor that caused the condition is controlled. The most important point in treatment is planning a diet that can solve the problem of low levels of protein in the blood and high levels of cholesterol in the blood, to return these two elements to their proper levels.

Edema, being caused by fluid retention, can show improvement if diuretic drugs are administered . To avoid excessive formation of thrombi that can cause significant problems, treatment with low molecular weight heparin can be administered as a preventive method.

If the syndrome is caused by a systemic disease it is important to control it , since until this is achieved the syndrome can continue to manifest itself and get worse. Examples of this are patients who suffer from nephrotic syndrome as a result of diabetes, who must control blood glucose levels, or people with autoimmune diseases that require the use of immunosuppressants.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Nephrotic syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Kidneys and urinary system category .

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