Nephrotic syndrome is a condition marked by very high levels of protein in the urine; low levels of protein in the blood; swelling, especially around the eyes, feet, and hands; and high cholesterol. Nephrotic syndrome results from damage to the kidneys' glomeruli (the singular form is glomerulus). Glomeruli are tiny blood vessels that filter waste and excess water from the blood and send them to the bladder as urine.
Nephrotic syndrome can occur with many diseases, including the kidney diseases caused by diabetes mellitus, but some causes are unknown. Prevention of nephrotic syndrome relies on controlling these diseases.
Treatment of nephrotic syndrome focuses on identifying the underlying cause if possible and reducing high cholesterol, blood pressure, and protein in urine through diet, medications, or both. One group of blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors also protects the kidneys in diabetic patients.
Nephrotic syndrome may go away once the underlying cause, if known, has been treated. In children, 80 percent of nephrotic syndrome cases are caused by minimal change disease, which can be successfully treated with prednisone. However, in adults most of the time a kidney disease is the underlying cause, and these diseases cannot be cured. In these cases, the kidneys may gradually lose their ability to filter wastes and excess water from the blood. If kidney failure occurs, the patient will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Information supplied by the National Institutes of Health.
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National Kidney Foundation
Continence Association of South Africa (CASA)