Nephrotic Syndrome – Intro, causes and symptoms

Nephrotic syndrome is not a disease but a combination of various disorders. Read on to know more about it.

Nephrotic Syndrome – Intro, Causes and symptomsIntroduction to nephrotic syndrome

Nephrotic syndrome is an indication that something is wrong with the kidney function. It is usually caused by damage to the clusters of small blood vessels (glomeruli) in the kidneys that filter waste and excess water from the blood.  In nephrotic syndrome, the body excretes more protein in the urine and also results in low blood protein levels, high cholesterol levels, low levels of albumin and high triglyceride levels in the blood which leads to swelling of feet, ankles and sometimes the face. A person suffering from nephrotic syndrome excretes twenty times more protein in the urine than a healthy person. Prolonged condition can cause internal blood stasis due to stagnation and edema (accumulation of fluid in interstitium).

Nephrotic syndrome is not a disease by itself but a presentation of various disorders. It can affect all age groups but it is more common in children between the ages of eighteen months to eight years. Rate of affected patients is slightly higher in males than females. The incidence and the histologic patterns of nephrotic syndrome are also affected by geographic location and ethnic origin.

Causes of nephrotic syndrome

The causes of nephrotic syndrome (glomeruli damage) can be divided in three types, i.e., primary, secondary and congenital.

The primary causes of nephrotic syndrome are the diseases that affect only the kidneys. Diseases like minimal change disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, membranous nephropathy, diabetic kidney disease are examples. About 75% of nephrotic syndrome cases result from primary causes.

There are many factors/conditions such as diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, amyloidosis, blood clot in a kidney vein and heart failure, infection, certain cancers, and some medicines that can cause damage to glomeruli which are the secondary causes of nephrotic syndrome. More than 50 percent of the adult cases of nephrotic syndrome are associated with diabetes as a common secondary cause.

Congenitally weak spleen and kidney, or weak physique due to the improper nursing after a chronic disease results in asthenia of the lung, spleen and kidney and this is supposed to be the internal causes of the nephrotic syndrome.

In children, the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome is minimal change disease and in adults it is membranous glomerulo nephritis.

Symptoms of nephrotic syndrome

There are few patients of nephrotic syndrome, who do not show any symptoms. In those that do, the most prominent symptom of nephrotic syndrome in all age groups is swelling of feet, ankles or sometimes around the eyes. There can also be swelling in lungs which results in difficulty to breath.

Nephrotic syndrome patient can also show other symptoms like:

  • Foamy urine can be seen due to  excess protein excreted in the urine
  • There may be weight gain due to excess fluid retention in the body
  • Sometimes swelling can be observed in belly area/abdomen
  • Some patients can also suffer from poor appetite

Photographs by sxc.hu

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