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Home > Services > Kidney Care > Kidney Conditions > Glomerulonephritis


Glomerulonephritis is a kidney condition that involves damage to the glomeruli, the tiny structures within the kidney that filter blood.

There are two types of glomerulonephritis:

  • Acute glomerulonephritis, which begins suddenly
  • Chronic glomerulonephritis, which develops gradually over several years

In some cases, glomerulonephritis leads to kidney failure

Factors that increase your chances of getting glomerulonephritis include:

  • Family history of glomerulonephritis
  • High blood pressure


Causes of glomerulonephritis include:

  • Streptococcal infection of the throat known as strep throat
  • Streptococcal infection of the skin known as impetigo
  • Immune diseases, such as lupus
  • Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes
  • Vasculitis
  • Viruses, such as HIV, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus
  • Endocarditis
  • Drugs and toxins

Symptoms of Glomerulonephritis

You may not experience symptoms of glomerulonephritis. When present, the symptoms of acute and chronic glomerulonephritis differ from one another.

Symptoms of acute glomerulonephritis may include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Foamy appearance of urine
  • Less frequent urination
  • Swelling in the morning, especially in the face, feet, hands and abdomen

Chronic glomerulonephritis symptoms may include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Muscle cramps at night
  • Swelling of the face, feet, hands or abdomen

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam will be done. Your doctor may test your bodily fluids and tissues with:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • Kidney biopsy

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • Ultrasound
  • Abdominal CT scan

Treatment depends on the cause of glomerulonephritis. The following steps may help kidney function or reduce further damage.


Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Diuretics to reduce fluid retention
  • Medications to suppress the immune system such as steroids
  • ACE inhibitors to control blood pressure and protein excretion

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor may recommend you:

  • Restrict your salt and water intake
  • Restrict your intake of potassium, phosphorous and magnesium
  • Cut down on protein in the diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise
  • Take calcium supplements

Dialysis and Transplant

You may need dialysis if your kidneys are unable to remove sufficient waste from the blood. Temporary dialysis may be sufficient for acute glomerulonephritis.

Permanent kidney failure and/or chronic glomerulonephritis may require long-term dialysis or a kidney transplant.


The following steps may decrease your risk of glomerulonephritis:

  • See a doctor promptly if you have a sore throat that might be due to strep.
  • Practice safe sex and avoid intravenous drug use to reduce the risk of getting viral infections, including HIV.
  • Manage your diabetes or high blood pressure.


Call 434.243.3675


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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