Acute nephritic syndrome
Acute nephritic syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur with some disorders that cause glomerulonephritis, or swelling and inflammation of the glomeruli in the kidney.
Glomerulonephritis - acute; Acute glomerulonephritis; Nephritis syndrome - acute
Acute nephritic syndrome is often caused by an immune response triggered by an infection or other disease.
Common causes in children and adolescents include:
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome
- Henoch-Schonlein purpura
- IgA nephropathy
- Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis
Common causes in adults include:
- Abdominal abscesses
- Goodpasture syndrome
- Hepatitis B or C
- Infective endocarditis
- Membranoproliferative GN I
- Membranoproliferative GN II
- Rapidly progressive (crescentic) glomerulonephritis
- SLE or lupus nephritis
- Viral diseases such as mononucleosis, measles, mumps
The inflammation affects the function of the glomerulus -- the part of the kidney that filters blood to make urine and remove waste. As a result, blood and protein appear in the urine, and excess fluid builds up in the body.
Swelling of the body occurs when the blood loses a protein called albumin. (Albumin keeps fluid in the blood vessels. When it is lost, fluid collects in the body tissues). Blood loss from the damaged kidney structures leads to blood in the urine.
Acute nephritic syndrome may be related to:
- Acute kidney failure
- High blood pressure
Common symptoms of nephritic syndrome are:
- Blood in the urine (urine appears dark, tea-colored, or cloudy)
- Decreased urine output (little or no urine may be produced)
- Swelling of the face, eye socket, legs, arms, hands, feet, abdomen, or other areas
Other symptoms that may occur include:
- Blurred vision
- Cough containing mucus or pink, frothy material
- Decreased alertness, drowsiness, confusion
- General aches and pains (joint pain, muscle aches)
- General ill feeling (malaise)
- Shortness of breath
- Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
Patients may develop symptoms of acute kidney failure or chronic kidney disease.
Exams and Tests
During an examination, your health care provider may find the following signs:
- Abnormal heart and lung sounds
- Enlarged liver
- Enlarged neck veins from increased pressure
- General swelling
- High blood pressure
- Signs of acute kidney failure
- Signs of fluid overload (in the abdomen)
Tests that may be done include:
- Blood electrolytes
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- Creatinine - blood
- Creatinine clearance
- Potassium test
- Protein in the urine
- Urine appearance and color
A kidney biopsy will show inflammation of the glomeruli, which may indicate the cause of the condition.
Tests to find the cause of acute nephritic syndrome may include:
- ANA titer (lupus)
- Anti-glomerular basement membrane antibody
- Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody for vasculitis (ANCA)
- Blood culture
- Culture of the throat or skin
- Serum complement (C3 and C4)
The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation in the kidney and control high blood pressure. You may need to stay in a hospital to be diagnosed and treated. Treatment may include antibiotics or other medications or therapies.
Your doctor may recommend bedrest. You may need to limit salt, fluids, and potassium in your diet. Your health care provider may prescribe medications to control high blood pressure. Corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce inflammation.
You may also need other treatments for acute kidney failure.
For information and support, see kidney disease support groups.
The outlook depends on the disease that is causing the nephritis. When the condition improves, symptoms of fluid retention (such as swelling and cough) and high blood pressure may go away in 1 or 2 weeks. However, urine tests may take months to return to normal.
Children tend to do better than adults and usually recover completely. Only rarely do they develop complications or progress to chronic glomerulonephritis and chronic kidney disease.
Adults do not recover as well or as quickly as children. Although it is unusual for the disease to return, at least one-third of adults whose disease does return will develop end-stage kidney disease and may need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of acute nephritic syndrome.
Many times, the disorder cannot be prevented, although treatment of illness and infection may help to reduce the risk.
Appel GB. Glomerular disorders and nephrotic syndromes. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 122.
Nachman PH, Jennette JC, Falk RJ. Primary glomerular disease. In: Brenner BM, ed. Brenner & Rector's The Kidney. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 30.
Last reviewed 9/8/2013 by Charles Silberberg, DO, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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