Diseases that injure the glomeruli, the tiny filtering units within the kidney where blood is cleaned, are called Glomerular diseases.
Glomerular disease reduces the kidney’s ability to maintain a balance of specific substances in the blood stream. The kidney’s job is to filter the bad toxins in the blood from the good proteins and red blood cells. Glomerular disease causes the kidney to begin to retain the bad toxins and release the proteins and red blood cells from the body. Laboratory analysis of the urine from people who have glomerular disease often shows protein in the urine (proteinuria) and sometimes blood in the urine (hematuria). Glomerular diseases include many conditions with a variety of genetic and environmental causes. Most Glomerular diseases have specific names but might also be referred to as either:
Glomerulonephritis: It describes the inflammation of the membrane tissue in the glomerulus of the kidney that serves as a filter, separating wastes and extra fluid from the blood.
Glomerulosclerosis: It describes the scarring or permanent damage to the tiny blood vessels within the kidney.
Causes of glomerular disease
Glomerular disease can be caused by numerous conditions and diseases including infection of the kidneys due to an infection that occurs throughout the body such as streptococcus bacteria that can cause the overproduction of antibodies that circulate through the blood and invade the glomeruli causing damage.
Other causes of glomerular disease include taking a drug that is toxic to the kidneys, and chronic medical conditions including diabetes and lupus. While the progression of certain types of kidney disease can be slowed down, when damage occurs to the glomeruli it is irreversible.
The symptoms of glomerular disease include the primary symptom of high levels of protein present in the urine or "proteinuria". Other symptoms of glomerular disease consist of blood in the urine or "hematuria" that may visible to the naked eye ("gross hematuria") or may only be visible under a microscope during laboratory testing of the urine ("microscopic hematuria"), "hypoproteinemia" which is a low level of protein in the blood, "reduced glomerular filtration rate" which is an insufficient amount of waste products being removed from the blood., and "edema" which is swelling that occurs in different parts of the body - typically the hands, legs, and feet.
In many cases an individual may not be aware that they have this condition due to the fact that many of these symptoms cannot be detected unless laboratory tests are done however, in some cases there are visible signs that may be present which include urine that appears to be foamy which can be caused by proteinuria, blood may give the urine a pinkish colour and edema may occur which is swelling typically of the hands, feet, or ankles and generally occurs near the end of the day and may also be noticeable upon wakening in the morning with swelling around the area of the eyes.
Diagnosis of glomerular disease
Patients with glomerular disease have significant amounts of protein in the urine, which may be referred to as "nephrotic range" if levels are very high. Red blood cells in the urine are a frequent finding as well, particularly in some forms of glomerular disease. Urinalysis provides information about kidney damage by indicating levels of protein and red blood cells in the urine. Blood tests measure the levels of waste products such as creatinine and urea nitrogen to determine whether the filtering capacity of the kidneys is impaired. If these lab tests indicate kidney damage, the doctor may recommend ultrasound or an X ray to see whether the shape or size of the kidneys is abnormal. These tests are called renal imaging. But since glomerular disease causes problems at the cellular level, the doctor will probably also recommend a kidney biopsy - a procedure in which a needle is used to extract small pieces of tissue for examination with different types of microscopes, each of which shows a different aspect of the tissue. A biopsy may be helpful in confirming glomerular disease and identifying the cause.
There are many forms of treatment that can be given when an individual is in the early stages of chronic kidney disease or CKD and varies widely based upon the specific disease that is causing the kidneys to fail.
It is essential if you are experiencing any of the symptoms or signs that may indicate a problem with the urinary tract or kidneys that you schedule an appointment as soon as possible with your primary care physician so that you can be evaluated and potentially avoid CKD or its further progression that can lead to kidney failure.