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Some people get pain in the kidneys (in the upper back, behind the ribs). Kidney pain may be due to a kidney infection or kidney stones and not glomerulonephritis, so it is important to see your GP for correct diagnosis.

Causes

Glomerulonephritis is usually caused by changes in the body’s immune system. This is a complicated process involving antigens and antibodies. Antigens are foreign substances in the body such as proteins and toxins. Antibodies circulate in the blood and their job is to get rid of antigens. If these antigens and antibodies gather in the kidneys for any reason it can cause an inflammatory reaction (swelling). This reaction may just affect the kidney or may cause problems in other parts of the body.

Anyone who already has a chronic (long-term) autoimmune condition, such as lupus is at risk of developing glomerulonephritis. An autoimmune condition means that the body attacks its own cells accidentally.

Commonly, acute glomerulonephritis is linked to streptococci bacteria (beta haemolytic). This is referred to as acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis (ASGN) and can follow a throat or skin infection.

Glomerulonephritis is also recognised as a serious complication of some other infections including AIDS/HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, TB and syphilis. For this reason, injecting drug users are particularly at risk of developing glomerulonephritis.

Glomerulonephritis is a complication of many other diseases, including:

  • cancer and leukaemia,
  • hodgkin’s disease,
  • diabetes,
  • Goodpasture’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that affects the lungs and kidneys),
  • liver disease, and
  • sickle cell disease.
  • Autoimmune

It is also recognised as a side effect of long-term use of certain drugs. Such drugs include, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg ibuprofen), gold injections (used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis), lithium (used in the treatment of depression) and penicillamine (used in the treatment of arthritis). Your GP should monitor your kidney function with renal tests if you are taking medicines that affect the function of the kidney.

Diagnosis

Often there are no symptoms at all. Sometimes glomerulonephritis is only diagnosed following a routine medical check-up, or during tests related to having high blood pressure, feeling tired or being pregnant. If you already have kidney disease, your doctor may want to test for glomerulonephritis.

If you have glomerulonephritis, a urine test will show up blood and protein in the urine. A range of tests will be carried out to assess how well your kidneys are working (renal function tests). These will include blood samples to find out levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and urea. Tests may show that you are producing less urine than usual overall.

If glomerulonephritis is suspected, the doctor may take a throat swab (scraping some cells from the back of your throat) a sample of to confirm the diagnosis.

Some varieties of glomerulonephritis are more serious than others. Your doctor may remove and examine a small sample of kidney tissue (a biopsy) to see how serious the glomerulonephritis is. This is usually done using local anaesthetic and a small needle.  The test carries a small risk of bleeding.

Treatment

Treating the original infection:

Streptococci bacteria are usually destroyed with antibiotics such as penicillin. Other infections may require other types of antibiotics and/or anti-viral drugs. Please see the hydrogen peroxide section for getting rid of infections instructions. Please also remember to take vitamin -D daily. This along with the use of a TENS unit read more in the electronic section will help you recover fully. Please also read the diet section for Omea-3 intake. We have had many patients get free from dialysis and get back to normal life.

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