What Are The Symptoms Of Glomerulonephritis?

September 27, 2023

Glomerulonephritis is a kidney condition that involves inflammation of the glomeruli. Healthy glomeruli filter waste products and excess electrolytes and fluid from the kidneys so they can be excreted in the urine. When these filters are damaged, patients could notice urinary changes and problems with fluid retention. Glomerulonephritis can develop as a response to a strep throat or impetigo infection, and it may also be triggered by hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV. Some patients may have this condition as a result of diabetes, lupus, or vasculitis. Doctors may discover glomerulonephritis after performing a routine analysis of a patient's urine, and blood tests, imaging studies, and a kidney biopsy could be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment for this condition may include dialysis, and some patients with severe forms of the disease might require a kidney transplant. Medications to control blood pressure and to treat underlying infections or autoimmune conditions can help with symptom management.


Edema (swelling) is associated with both the chronic and acute forms of glomerulonephritis, and it develops as a result of the fluid retention caused by this condition. In the early stages of the acute form, patients might notice puffiness in the face, and individuals with the chronic type could experience swelling of both the face and ankles. Some patients may observe swelling in their hands, feet, and abdomen too. The skin over an area with edema generally appears shiny or stretched. Doctors can assess patients for edema by performing a physical exam. During the exam, they may gently press on the swollen areas of the patient's body. If the skin over the affected area still has a pit (dimple) for more than a few seconds after the doctor presses it, this finding is known as pitting. Patients with edema may be prescribed diuretics, and the patient's current medications might need to be adjusted.


The majority of glomerulonephritis patients will develop hypertension (high blood pressure) due to reductions in kidney function and changes in the way their body processes sodium. Doctors currently define hypertension as a blood pressure reading consistently higher than 130/80. Patients with kidney conditions will have their blood pressure monitored at every checkup, and they may need to take prescription medication to reduce their blood pressure. Doctors may recommend patients check their blood pressure regularly with an at-home monitoring unit. Many of these units now sync with smartphones, and patients can choose to share measurements with their medical team automatically. In addition to medication, physicians typically recommend for patients with this condition to try to reach or maintain a healthy weight, and it may be necessary to reduce protein, potassium, and sodium in the diet. Some patients with this form of kidney disorder might develop a form of hypertension known as malignant hypertension, which involves rapid increases in blood pressure, and it is considered a medical emergency. Blood pressure readings of at least 180/120 are common with malignant hypertension, and they may indicate kidney failure. Patients should always let their doctor know about any changes in their home blood pressure readings, and they should take all blood pressure medicine exactly as prescribed.

Blood Or Protein In The Urine

Patients with glomerulonephritis could notice blood or protein in their urine. The presence of blood in the urine may make it appear to be the color of rust or cola, and some individuals might experience light pink urine. In some cases, blood in the urine could be present in such small amounts that it is not visible. Doctors will use urine tests to check for very small amounts of blood. If protein is present in the urine, it might appear foamy or bubbly. Patients with these symptoms should have a physical examination and urinalysis, and they may need to be referred to a kidney specialist. Patients who have already been diagnosed with glomerulonephritis should always inform their specialist about any changes they observe in their urine. For example, increasing amounts of urinary blood or foaminess should be reported, and patients should also let their specialist know if they are experiencing any pain.

Urinating More At Night

Glomerulonephritis patients may find they are urinating more at night. This could be due to the disease itself or to the diuretics prescribed to manage edema and related symptoms. Urinating more at night could naturally disrupt sleep, and this could negatively impact the patient's emotional state. It might also lead to weight gain and worsen the patient's control of their blood sugar and blood pressure. Patients who are troubled by frequent urination at night may want to keep a journal of how many times they wake up at night to use the bathroom. This information could be helpful to doctors in planning the patient's treatment. It may be possible to try different medications that might reduce nighttime urination, and patients might want to restrict fluid intake during the evening to improve the overall quality and duration of their sleep.

Shortness Of Breath

Glomerulonephritis patients can experience shortness of breath, and those who do generally notice an uncomfortable sensation and feel as though they cannot get enough air. They may gasp for breath. Individuals with this symptom should see a doctor immediately if the shortness of breath persists after thirty minutes of rest, and medical attention is also necessary if the patient has trouble breathing while they are lying flat. Patients who have already had previous episodes of shortness of breath will need to see a physician urgently if their symptoms become more severe. Doctors can assess shortness of breath by listening to the patient's lung sounds with a stethoscope, and CT scans or lung function tests may be performed as well. Treatment for shortness of breath includes supplemental oxygen and bronchodilators (medications that relax the airways).

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