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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:



(Glomerular Disease)


Glomerulonephritis is damage to tiny filters in the kidneys. This makes it hard for the kidneys to remove waste and make urine. The waste then builds up in the body and leads to other health problems.

It may be sudden or happen slowly over time.

Anatomy of the Kidney.

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Causes of glomerulonephritis may be:

  • Infections, such as strep throat, HIV, endocarditis
  • Immune system problems, such as lupus
  • Problems with blood vessels
  • Other kidney problems
  • Changes in genes
  • Diabetes
  • Damage due to drugs or toxins

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of glomerulonephritis are:

  • A family history of kidney disease
  • Past or current kidney problems
  • Having other health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Taking certain medicines
  • Exposure to toxins


Some people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:

  • Swelling from fluid buildup
  • Urine that has blood in it or looks foamy
  • Lower amounts of urine
  • Tiredness
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of hunger
  • Muscle cramps at night


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a doctor who treats kidney diseases.

Blood and urine tests will be done to check kidney function.

Pictures may need to be taken of the kidneys. This can be done with an ultrasound.

A small sample of the kidney may need to be removed and tested. This can be done with a kidney biopsy.


Some people may get better with time. Others may need treatment to keep the kidney working. This also lowers the risk of further injury. Treatment depends on the cause. Options may be:

  • Stopping or changing medicines that are harming the kidneys
  • Taking medicines to:
    • Control problems that hurt the kidneys, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
    • Manage problems caused by the condition, such as swelling, nausea, or feeling tired
    • Treat infections
  • Lifestyle changes, such as dietary changes, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Dialysis to filter blood when the kidneys cannot


The risk of glomerulonephritis may be lowered by managing health problems that can harm the kidneys.





  • Awdishu, L., Mehta, R.L. The 6R’s of drug induced nephrotoxicity. BMC Nephrol 18, 124 (2017).
  • Glomerular disease-approach to patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/glomerular-disease-approach-to-the-patient.
  • Overview of glomerular disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/glomerular-disorders/overview-of-glomerular-disorders.
  • What is glomerulonephritis? National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/glomerul.


  • Mark S. Itzkowitz, MD, JD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.