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Nephrotic Syndrome—Adult

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Nephrotic Syndrome—Adult


Nephrotic syndrome is a disorder of the kidneys that can result in:

  • High amounts of protein in the urine
  • High cholesterol in the blood
  • Swelling in the body—mainly in the feet and legs
  • Low levels of a certain protein in the blood
Anatomy of the Kidney.

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Tiny filters in the kidneys remove waste from the blood and makes urine. If they are not working well, wastes and fluids build up in the body.

The most common cause of nephrotic syndrome is damage from kidney problems such as:

Other causes are problems that harm the kidneys such as:

Risk Factors

The risk of nephrotic syndrome is higher in people who have:

  • Any of the health problems that cause the condition
  • Used certain medicines for a long time
  • Contact with certain toxins
  • Health problems that slow blood flow


Symptoms may be:

  • Swelling of feet, ankles, and legs—less often the belly, hands, and face
  • Feeling tired
  • Lack of hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Foamy urine
  • Breathing problems


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood and urine tests will be done to check kidney function. This is enough to make the diagnosis.

Other tests will be done to look for a cause. You may need to see a doctor who treats kidney diseases.


In some people, nephrotic syndrome goes away on its own. In others, the cause will need to be treated. Options are:

  • Dietary changes
  • Medicines to lower:
  • Dialysis to filter blood when the kidneys cannot


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





  • Kakar S, Kumar V, Singh R. Latest research progress on acute nephrotic syndrome. J Acute Dis. 2017;6:255-259.
  • Nephrotic syndrome. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/nephrotic.
  • Nephrotic syndrome in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nephrotic-syndrome-in-adults.
  • Nephrotic syndrome in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/nephrotic-syndrome-adults.
  • Overview of nephrotic syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/glomerular-disorders/overview-of-nephrotic-syndrome.


  • 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.