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Nephrotic syndrome (NS), also known as nephrosis, is any degenerative disease of the renal tubes. This condition of the kidneys is usually caused by one of the diseases that damage the filtering system of the kidneys. When damage occurs, a protein called albumin is filtered out into the urine (albuminuria), resulting in symptoms such as frothy or foamy urine, weight loss, muscle wasting, fluid retention, dizziness, and stomach pain. Treatment for nephrosis generally includes medications and dietary changes. Learn more about nephrosis, its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and outlook.
How the Kidneys Work
As blood passes through tiny filters in the kidneys known as nephrons, it’s properly cleaned. The kidneys are designed to remove waste products from the blood, while maintaining a healthy balance of salts, nutrients and water. In patients with healthy kidneys, protein is not removed during the filtration process. However, if the kidneys are damaged, protein may leak and be removed from the body through urine. The main two proteins generally affected are globulin and albumin.
Symptoms of Nephrosis
People with nephrosis may experience swelling in the face and around the eyes, as well as in the legs and arms, especially the ankles and feet. Abdominal swelling may also be present. Other symptoms of nephrosis may include poor appetite, weight gain due to fluid retention, hypoalbuminemia (low level of albumin in the blood), and hypercholesterolemia (high level of cholesterol in the blood). The patient may also have a general feeling of being unwell.
Causes of Nephrosis
Nephrosis can be caused by several things, including changes to the immune system. Also known as lipoid nephrosis, this type of immune system change is most common in children. While the kidneys appear to be working normally under a microscope, the cause is believed to be due to changes in certain cells of the immune system. The recovery and outlook of lipoid nephrosis is generally excellent.
Local inflammation is also a cause of nephrosis and results in scaring to the kidney filters. Since treatment does not always resolve the underlying condition, the kidneys may gradually lose their ability to properly filter wastes and excess fluids from the blood. The final possible cause of nephrosis is secondary nephrotic syndrome. This means that the nephrosis may be caused by various conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or certain drugs.
Diagnosing and Testing for Nephrosis
Diagnosing nephrosis involves the patient undergoing a variety of tests. Urine tests are used to look for excessive levels of protein that often make the urine appear foamy or frothy. Urine tests may also be used to measure the amount of albumin in the urine compared to the amount of creatinine. Other tests may include blood tests, which are used to estimate the glomerular filtration rate, which can also be used to see how well the kidneys are functioning. In some cases, a biopsy may be taken of kidney tissue and sent to a laboratory to be examined.
Nephrosis Disease Treatment
In more than 40 percent of cases, ‘minimal change’ nephrosis will fix itself. Various other causes of nephrosis may also be treatable. The treatment plan primary depends on the person’s health and the overall severity of the condition. In most cases, treatment includes specific medications to treat certain causes, such as steroids to treat for minimal change or immunosuppression for membranous nephropathy. Diuretics may also be prescribed to help manage swelling, and medication to control high blood pressure.
Patients who suffer from persistent nephrosis should also be treated with angiotensin active ingredients, or ACE inhibitors, to decrease the amount of albuminuria and reduce blood pressure. The goal of treatment is to prevent further complications, relieve symptoms, treat the underlying disorder, and delay kidney damage to achieve optimal health.