Conditions & Treatments

Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis is a type of glomerular kidney disease in which the kidneys' filters become inflamed and scarred, and slowly lose their ability to remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood to make urine.

Glomerulonephritis

Illustration of the anatomy of the kidney
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What is glomerulonephritis?

Glomerulonephritis is a type of glomerular kidney disease in which the kidneys' filters (glomeruli composed of tiny blood vessels) become inflamed and scarred, and slowly lose their ability to remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood to make urine. Types of glomerulonephritis include kidney disease of diabetes, IgA nephropathy, and lupus nephritis.

What are the symptoms of glomerulonephritis?

The kidneys can be severely damaged before any symptoms appear. The following are the most common symptoms of glomerulonephritis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue

  • High blood pressure

  • Noticeable swelling of the face, hands, feet, and abdomen

  • Blood and protein in the urine

  • Decreased urine output

The symptoms of glomerulonephritis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is glomerulonephritis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for glomerulonephritis may include the following:

  • Urinalysis. Laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein, to determine levels of protein and red blood cells in the urine.

  • Blood tests. Tests to measure the levels of waste products to determine how well the kidneys are filtering.

  • Ultrasound of the kidney. A diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs, to determine whether the shape or size of the kidney is abnormal. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

  • Kidney biopsy. A procedure in which tissue samples are removed with a needle or during surgery from the kidney for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

What is the treatment for glomerulonephritis?

Specific treatment for glomerulonephritis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Unfortunately, even with today's medicine, kidney disease cannot be cured. Therefore, treatments focus on slowing the progression of the disease and preventing complications. Treatment may include:

  • Drug therapy, such as ACE (angiotensin-converting enzymes) inhibitors

  • Diet modification. This includes limiting protein to reduce the buildup of wastes in the blood, sodium, and potassium

  • Dialysis. A medical treatment to remove wastes and additional fluid from the blood after the kidneys have stopped functioning.

  • Kidney transplantation. A procedure that places a healthy kidney from one person into a recipient's body.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
  • Adult Medicine Imaging
    The Adult Medicine Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging offers a wide range of diagnostic exams and minimally invasive, image-guided treatments, all provided using leading-edge equipment and interpreted by specialty-trained radiologists.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Pediatric Transplant Surgery
    The Pediatric Transplant Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children is a major referral center for organ transplants for children.
Transplant Center

  • Kidney/Pancreas/Islet Transplant Programs
    The Kidney/Pancreas/Islet Transplant Programs at Massachusetts General Hospital provide new and unique treatment options for patients with end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) and/or type 1 diabetes.
Department of Medicine

  • Vasculitis and Glomerulonephritis Center
    The Vasculitis and Glomerulonephritis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital conducts leading-edge research and provides specialty care for patients with vasculitis, glomerulonephritis and related conditions.
Nephrology Division

  • Center for Renal Education
    The Center for Renal Education provides education about Chronic Kidney Disease and its management and individualized plans of care that include nutritional counseling, blood pressure management, medication review and supportive services.
  • Resistant Hypertension Program
    The Resistant Hypertension Program specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis and management of patients with resistant or difficult to treat hypertension.
  • Chronic Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD) Program
    The Peritoneal Dialysis Unit provides training and long term management for the patient who selects peritoneal dialysis as home therapy. Staffed by experienced peritoneal dialysis nurses, manual and automated home peritoneal dialysis is available.
  • Renal Associates Clinic
    Renal Associates provides services in general nephrology including diabetes, water and electrolyte disorders, kidney disease in pregnancy, urinary tract infections, and primary and secondary diseases of the kidney.
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Clinic
    The Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital specializes in the diagnosis and management of cystic kidney diseases.

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