Nephrotic syndrome is a condition of the kidneys that causes the body to excrete too much protein with the urine. The rare disorder affects roughly 200,000 people a year and is chronic, which means it can last for years at a time.
Nephrotic Syndrome Symptoms
Foamy urine is one of the most common symptoms of nephrotic syndrome and happens because of the amount of protein in the stream. People with the condition may also notice severe swelling around the eyes, feet, and ankles due to excess fluid. Fatigue and loss of appetite are other common symptoms of nephrotic syndrome, as is weight gain — again due to fluid retention. A person who notices any of these symptoms in conjunction should see a doctor.
Nephrotic Syndrome Causes
Damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys often causes nephrotic syndrome. These blood vessels or glomeruli are responsible for filtering waste and water from the blood. Usually, an underlying condition contributes to nephrotic syndrome. People with the condition have a higher risk of developing blood clots, which can be quite serious.
How is Nephrotic Syndrome Diagnosed?
The doctor may perform a few tests if he or she suspects nephrotic syndrome. A urine test will indicate higher-than-average amounts of protein in the urine. Blood tests will show whether the body is producing enough albumin, an essential protein used by the kidneys. A kidney biopsy — wherein the doctor takes a sample of your organ for testing — may also be used to test for nephrotic syndrome.
What is the Treatment for Nephrotic Syndrome?
If an underlying ailment is responsible for the development of nephrotic syndrome, addressing this condition should treat nephrotic syndrome as well. Medication such as blood thinners or water pills can treat symptoms such as fluid buildup, and drugs that control cholesterol and blood pressure and strengthen the immune system may also be prescribed.
Who is at Risk for Developing Nephrotic Syndrome?
Certain conditions and diseases increase the risk of nephrotic syndrome, including diabetes, lupus, amyloidosis, and kidney disease. Some infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and malaria can also contribute to the diagnosis. Lastly, some medications, such as anti-inflammatories and those prescribed to fight infection, can raise one’s likelihood of developing nephrotic syndrome.
What is the Prognosis?
In most cases, the prognosis is good for people who have nephrotic syndrome. Initial treatments are generally successful, but in some cases, remission can take up to two years. The best results are seen in people who follow the treatment plans laid out by medical professionals and continue taking steps to treat their underlying condition and symptoms.
Are There Serious Complications with Nephrotic Syndrome?
Yes, some complications may arise with nephrotic syndrome. Blood clots are one of the more severe complications. Since nephrotic syndrome affects the blood vessels in the kidneys, the proteins that help prevent clotting may not function correctly. Another serious complication is acute kidney failure. If the organs become damaged, they are less likely to filter waste properly. This action results in damage to the kidneys, which requires dialysis to help remove waste. Chronic kidney disease is another risk that can lead to a kidney transplant.
What Kind of Changes Should You Make at Home?
Changes in diet may help people deal with nephrotic syndrome. A dietician can recommend ideal foods for managing symptoms. They often recommend lowering salt intake, eating lean protein, lowering the number of fatty foods, and avoiding sugary foods.
What Happens if Nephrotic Syndrome is Not Treated?
If left untreated, nephrotic syndrome can cause problems with breathing and eating and can lead to infections. In severe cases, patients may need kidney transplants or dialysis. People who notice multiple symptoms linked to nephrotic syndrome should speak to a doctor right away so treatment can begin promptly and minimize the risk of complications.
Curing Nephrotic Syndrome
In most cases, nephrotic syndrome can be cured in the early stages, before severe damage occurs to the kidney’s blood vessels. In some instances, there is no cure; it depends entirely on the underlying cause. If the reason comes from other conditions that have available treatments, complete recovery is more likely.