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Health Information For Parents
Glomerulonephritis (gluh-MARE-you-low-ne-FRY-tis) is a kidney problem.
The kidneys are fist-sized organs shaped like kidney beans. They clean blood and help remove waste that goes into pee (urine).
When a child has glomerulonephritis (GN), the kidneys don’t work properly and can’t clean the blood well. This can happen quickly (acute GN) or slowly over time (chronic GN).
GN causes problems with urinating (peeing) and swelling in parts of the body, like the face and hands. In some cases, it can lead to kidney damage or kidney failure.
Medicine and changes in diet and other health habits can help slow down or reverse damage to the kidneys.
Inside the kidneys are balls of tiny blood vessels called glomeruli. They are the part of the kidneys that clean the blood and remove waste and extra fluids, which leave the body in pee.
In glomerulonephritis, the glomeruli are swollen and irritated (inflamed). They stop working well, and blood cells and protein can leak into the pee. When this happens, fluids can also leak out of the blood vessels into the body’s tissues. This causes swelling in the face, belly, hands, and feet.
Glomerulonephritis can cause:
With chronic GN, symptoms can develop slowly over many months or years. Some kids won’t have noticeable symptoms at first. Doctors may find the condition if a routine urine test detects blood and/or protein, or after a child is diagnosed with high blood pressure.
In some cases, chronic GN can lead to more kidney damage, and even kidney failure (when the kidneys no longer can clean the blood well). Symptoms of kidney failure include:
If your child has any of these problems, it’s important to see a doctor right away to find the cause. Having one of these signs alone doesn’t mean a child has kidney failure. But when a few of these things happen together, that’s a clue that kidney failure is possible.
Acute GN sometimes happens after streptococcal bacteria cause a throat or skin infection. Other causes include:
Chronic GN can be passed down in families, but sometimes doctors don’t know what causes it.
Doctors diagnose glomerulonephritis by doing an exam and asking about symptoms. The doctor may order blood tests and get a urine sample for testing. The doctor also might order a kidney ultrasound to get a better look at the kidneys. Ultrasounds use sound waves to create images of organs and other body parts.
In some cases, a child may have a kidney biopsy. During a kidney biopsy, a tiny bit of kidney tissue is removed and sent to a lab for testing.
Sometimes acute glomerulonephritis gets better on its own. Treatment, if needed, depends on the cause and a child’s age and overall health.
When an immune system problem causes GN, kids will get steroids and other drugs that help suppress the immune system. Antibiotics can treat a bacterial infection. Some kids may need a treatment to clean the blood using an artificial filter, called dialysis, if their kidneys are greatly and irreversibly damaged.
To deal with uncomfortable symptoms, doctors may give medicines to lower blood pressure or help the kidneys make pee and get rid of waste. A child might need to drink less fluids than usual and eat a diet that’s low in protein, salt, and potassium.
In most cases of acute GN, the damage to the glomeruli eventually heals. How long this takes is different for every child. Acute GN that doesn’t respond to treatment can become chronic.
To help healing and prevent more damage to the kidneys, kids should:
When these methods don’t help enough to prevent lasting kidney damage, kids may need dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant.
Follow the doctor’s advice to help protect your child’s kidneys and give your child the best chance of slowing down or stopping kidney damage or failure.
You also can find more support and information online at:
With glomerulonephritis, tiny filtering units in the kidneys stop working properly, causing problems like too much fluid in the body and swelling. Most of the time it can be treated. Find out more.
Hematuria is pretty common, and most of the time it’s not serious. Find out what causes blood in the urine and what to do about it.
Sometimes, the kidneys can’t do their job properly. In teens, kidney disease is usually due to infections, structural issues, glomerulonephritis, or nephrotic syndrome.
Kidney stones mostly happen to adults, but sometimes teens can get them. Find out what kidney stones are, how to treat them, and ways to help prevent them.
The kidneys play a critical role in health. When something goes wrong, it could indicate a kidney disease. What are kidney diseases, and how can they be treated?
Parents of kids who have a chronic kidney disease often worry about what might happen next, how their child feels, and what treatments are likely to be involved. Find answers here.
The bean-shaped kidneys, each about the size of a child’s fist, are essential to our health. Their most important role is to filter blood and produce urine.
Kidney stones mostly happen to adults, but sometimes kids and teens can get them. Find out what kidney stones are, how to treat them, and ways to help prevent them.
If the kidneys stop working, a person will need either dialysis or a transplant. Get the facts on kidney transplant in this article for teens.
The kidneys perform several functions that are essential to health, the most important of which are to filter blood and produce urine.
A renal ultrasound makes images of your child’s kidneys, ureters, and bladder. Doctors may order this test if they suspect kidney damage, cysts, tumors, kidney stones, or complications from urinary tract infections.
If your child needs a kidney transplant, you’re probably feeling lots of emotions. Fortunately, many kids who undergo kidney transplants go on to live normal, healthy lives.
A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) blood test helps evaluate kidney and liver function, sugar (glucose) and protein levels in the blood, and electrolyte and fluid balance.
Doctors may order a phosphorus blood test to help diagnose or monitor kidney disorders, calcium and bone problems, or other conditions.
If your child has blood in the urine, don’t panic. Most of the time it’s not serious. Find out what causes it and what to do about it.
Dialysis is a medical treatment that can take over the job of filtering the blood until a person’s failing kidneys heal or are replaced with a kidney transplant. Find out more in this article for teens.
Lupus is a disease that affects the immune system. Learn how lupus is treated, signs and symptoms, how to support a friend who has it, and more.
Lupus is known as an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system mistakenly works against the body’s own tissues.
Is your child having a urine culture or urinalysis performed? Find out why urine tests are performed, and what to expect when the doctor orders them.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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