Nephritis

Nephritis is inflammation of the kidney. The most common form, glomerulonephritis, affects children and teenagers far more often than adults. It is inflammation of the glomeruli, small round filters located in the kidney. Pyelonephritis affects adults more than children, and is recognized as inflammation ofthe kidney and upper urinary tract. A third type of nephritis is hereditarynephritis, a rare inherited condition.

Acute glomerulonephritis usually develops a few weeks after a strep infectionof the throat or skin. Symptoms of glomerulonephritis include fatigue, highblood pressure, and swelling (especially in the hands, feet, ankles and face). Ninety percent of children with glomerulonephritis recover without complications. With proper medical treatment, symptoms usually subside within a few weeks, or at the most, a few months. Treatment normally includes drugs such ascortisone or cytotoxic drugs (drugs that destroy certain cells or antigens).Diuretics may be prescribed to increase urination. In patients with high blood pressure, drugs may be prescribed to lower blood pressure. Iron and vitamin supplements may be recommended if the patient becomes anemic.

Streptococcal infections that may lead to glomerulonephritis can be preventedby avoiding exposure to strep infection and obtaining prompt medical treatment for scarlet fever or other infection.

Pyelonephritis usually occurs suddenly, and the acute form of this disease ismore common in adult women. It is commonly caused when bacteria are carriedinto the urinary tract by the backward flow of urine from the bladder. Symptoms include fever and chills, fatigue, burning or frequent urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and aching pain on one of both sides of the lower back or abdomen. It can be treated successfully if diagnosed early. Follow-up urinalysisstudies will determine if the patient remains bacteria-free. If the infection is not cured or continues to recur, it can lead to serious complications such as bacteremia (bacterial invasion of the bloodstream), hypertension, chronic pyelonephritis and even permanent kidney damage. Patients who are severelyill with acute pyelonephritis may need to be hospitalized. Antibiotics willbe prescribed, with the length of treatment based on the severity of the infection. In the case of chronic pyelonephritis, a six-month course of antibiotics may be necessary to rid the body of infection. Surgery is sometimes necessary. Pyelonephritis can best be avoided if those with a history of urinary tract infections drink plenty of fluids, urinate frequently, and practice goodhygiene following urination.

Hereditary nephritis is present at birth. The rare disease appears in many different forms and can be responsible for up to 5% of end-stage renal diseasein men. Although it cannot be prevented, early detection and treatment can prevent complications such as eye problems, deafness or kidney failure. Treatment of hereditary nephritis depends of the variety of the disease and its severity at the time of treatment.

For any type of nephritis, alternative treatment should be used as a complement to medical care and under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. Someherbs thought to relieve symptoms of nephritis include cleavers (Galium spp.) and wild hydrangea.

Diagnosis of nephritis is based on:

  • The patient's symptoms and medicalhistory
  • Physical examination
  • Laboratory tests
  • Kidney function tests
  • Imaging studies such as ultrasound or x rays to determine blockage and inflammation.

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