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Glomerulonephritis (GN): Overview

What is glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis is a condition in which the kidney filters become inflamed, causing blood to leak into urine. In acute cases, blood in the urine is visible to the naked eye.

Glomerulonephritis can occur in various forms, including infections and viruses:

  • Strep, or other infection-related glomerulonephritis
  • Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, a chronic (lifelong) condition.

Blood in urine may also indicate a different condition called IgA nephropathy. A kidney disease specialist for children (nephrologist) will perform lab work to determine a diagnosis.

What causes glomerulonephritis?

In some cases, the cause of this inflammation is not entirely known. Other times, it can be due to strep, other infections or viruses.

After a strep infection has been cleared out by the body’s immune system, some children’s kidney filters (glomeruli) react in the clean up process performed by the kidney. This is known as post-step glomerulonephritis. In 85% of uncomplicated cases of post-strep glomerulonephritis, there is total kidney recovery.

Other types of glomerulonephritis, including membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, have no explained cause. IgA nephropathy also has no known cause, and can look like acute glomerulonephritis because of the blood seen in the urine. In cases of IgA nephropathy, a child can have several episodes of blood in the urine over time, without any prior infection. Like acute glomerulonephritis, kidney function recovers in 85% of cases.

Other nephritis diseases

There are other diseases that can involve the kidney filters and cause glomerulonephritis. Glomerulonephritis can be seen in diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP) that affect other parts of the body. Proven treatments are not available for every kind of nephritis, but your nephrologist will know what treatments are best. Efforts are made to treat severe cases, because losing kidney function from kidney disease is very serious.