Nephrotic syndrome is a condition marked by very high levels of protein in
the urine (proteinuria); low levels of protein in the blood; swelling, especially
around the eyes, feet, and hands; and high cholesterol. Nephrotic syndrome
results from damage to the kidneys' glomeruli (the singular form is glomerulus).
Glomeruli are tiny blood vessels that filter waste and excess water from the
blood and send them to the bladder as urine.
Nephrotic syndrome can occur with many diseases, including the kidney diseases
caused by diabetes mellitus, but some causes are unknown. Prevention of nephrotic
syndrome relies on controlling these diseases.
Treatment of nephrotic syndrome focuses on identifying the underlying cause
if possible and reducing high cholesterol, blood pressure, and protein in urine
through diet, medications, or both. One group of blood pressure medications
called ACE inhibitors also protects the kidneys by reducing proteinuria.
Nephrotic syndrome may go away once the underlying cause, if known, has been
treated. In children, 80 percent of cases of nephrotic syndrome are caused
by minimal change disease, which can be successfully treated with prednisone.
However, in adults, most of the time the underlying cause is a kidney disease
such as membranous nephropathy or focal segmental glomerulonephritis, and these
diseases often persist even with treatment. In these cases, the kidneys may
gradually lose their ability to filter wastes and excess water from the blood.
If kidney failure occurs, the patient will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
American Kidney Fund
National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute Health Information Center
National Kidney Foundation
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