Glomerulonephritis is a condition that causes clusters of blood vessels within the kidneys (the glomeruli) to become inflamed. Patients with the chronic form of this condition may develop high blood pressure, and they might notice abdominal pain, swelling of the ankles and face, recurrent nosebleeds, and increased nighttime urination. Acute glomerulonephritis, which is usually caused by an infection, can trigger coughing due to the accumulation of excess fluid in the lungs, and patients typically observe a reduction in their normal urinary output. Both types of glomerulonephritis can lead to kidney failure. To diagnose glomerulonephritis, patients will need to undergo blood and urine tests, and ultrasounds or other imaging studies are used to confirm the diagnosis. Patients who have an underlying immune condition responsible for their glomerulonephritis may be treated with plasmapheresis, and patients with chronic glomerulonephritis will need to make dietary changes. If the condition reaches an advanced stage, it may be necessary to have dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Some of the most common causes of glomerulonephritis are discussed below.
Viral infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are recognized as triggers for the development of glomerulonephritis. Hepatitis B is a viral liver infection that can cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), and it also increases an individual's risk of cancer. Patients with hepatitis B could experience jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, fever, and joint pain, and the condition can be acute or chronic. A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B. Patients can contract a similar type of viral liver infection, hepatitis C, through exposure to contaminated blood. Since the early stages of hepatitis C are often asymptomatic, doctors recommend for individuals at high risk for this condition to be screened with a blood test. When symptoms do occur, they can include weight loss, jaundice, spider angiomas, and fluid buildup in the abdomen. Hepatitis C is now curable with a six-month course of oral medication. HIV can be transmitted through sexual activity and through sharing needles or injection equipment with an infected individual. This condition damages the immune system, and patients are especially susceptible to infection. Although HIV cannot be cured, it can be controlled with oral medication.
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