Nephrotic Syndrome is a “kidney disorder that causes your body to pass too much protein in your urine.” This can produce fluid retention and swelling, especially in the eyes, face, legs and abdomen. It is usually caused by damage to the glomeruli (the tiny filters in the kidney) and can occur at any age.
The glomeruli filter your blood and separate things your body needs from the things it doesn’t. Healthy glomeruli keeps protein from leaking into the urine. “Normally protein in the blood is too large to pass through the tiny holes in the filters, but when the glomeruli are damaged, large amounts of protein (greater than 3.5 grams) can leak through into the urine.” This kidney disorder damages the clusters of small blood vessels that filter water and excess waste. Thus causing fluid retention.
Signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome:
- Severe swelling (called edema) around eyes, ankles and feet.
- Foamy urine (caused by too much protein).
- Weight gain (from fluid retention).
- Loss of appetite.
Many diseases and conditions can lead to nephrotic syndrome:
- Diabetic kidney disease- diabetic neuropathy.
- Minimal change disease- abnormal kidney function. This is the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in children.
- Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis- scarring of the glomeruli. Can be the result of another disease or a genetic defect.
- Membranous nephropathy- thickening membranes within the glomeruli. Can result from conditions such as lupus, cancer or hepatitis B.
- “When the cause of nephrotic syndrome is not known it is referred to as idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS).”
Blood and urine tests can easily determine the amount of protein in your system. They can also gauge your level of kidney function. A kidney biopsy may be used to determine the exact cause of your nephrotic syndrome. Treatment involves taking care of any medical condition or disease that might be the trigger for your kidney damage. “Your doctor might also recommend medications and changes in your diet to help control your signs and symptoms or treat complications.”
- Blood pressure medications.
- Water pills.
- Cholesterol reducing medications.
- Blood thinners.
- Immune system suppressing medications.
- Eat lean sources of protein.
- Reduce the fat and cholesterol in your diet.
- Reduce the salt and liquid in your diet to help control swelling.
The prognosis for nephrotic syndrome is often favorable. But, if left untreated, it can become severe and life threatening. Although it is a serious condition, most people respond well to treatment and can even achieve remission.
about the author
Lisa Foster is a mom of 3 daughters, a puzzle lover, writer and HealthTree advocate. She believes in the mission of the foundation and the team that builds it forward. She calls Houston, Texas home.