Chronic Nephritis

The kidneys contain up to one million nephrons, which are the filtering units of the kidneys. Inside each nephron is a tiny network of looping blood vessels called the glomerulus. The glomerulus filters your blood, allowing excess fluid and waste to pass into the tubule and become urine. In a healthy nephron, this filter helps to keep blood cells and protein in the bloodstream.

Nephritis is a general term used to describe a group of diseases that cause swelling or inflammation of the glomerulus. This inflammation reduces the kidney’s ability to filter waste from the blood. The word ‘nephritis’ is often used as an abbreviation for glomerulonephritis.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

As the nephritis develops, some of these symptoms may start to show — high blood pressure, drowsiness, swelling, itchy skin, nausea, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, back pain, flank pain, headache, blood in urine, low urine output, etc.

Because the symptoms develop gradually, the disorder may be discovered when there is an abnormal urinalysis during a routine physical examination or during a consultation for another, unrelated disorder. It may also be discovered as a cause of high blood pressure that is difficult to control.

Laboratory tests may reveal anemia or show signs of reduced kidney functioning, including azotemia. Later, signs of chronic kidney failure may be apparent, including edema.

Treatment

There are many types of nephritis and as each behaves differently, the best course of treatment can only be decided after the nephritis has been identified by examining the sample removed by a kidney biopsy. Many types of nephritis require observation but no treatment, and rarely lead to long-term kidney damage. Other cases may need blood pressure medication. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) have proven to be effective treatment modalities, for both reducing the amount of protein in the urine and decreasing the blood pressure. Reducing blood pressure and the amount of proteinuria can lead to specific results. Several other blood pressure medications that work in different ways are available. A diuretic is often prescribed as well.