Acute nephritic syndrome

A group of disorders that cause inflammation of the internal kidney structures (specifically, the glomeruli).

Alternative Names

Glomerulonephritis - acute; Acute glomerulonephritis; Nephritis syndrome - acute

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Acute nephritic syndrome is the result of inflammation of the internal structures of the kidney, often caused by an immune response triggered by infection (typified by acute post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis ) or other disease. Despite the diversity of diseases that cause acute nephritis below, they share many symptoms in common. Frequently observed symptoms and signs include changes in urine volume (decreased), renal failure, protein in urine (proteinuria), microscopic or gross blood in urine ( hematuria ), swelling ( edema ), high blood pressure ( hypertension ) and a decreased ability of the kidney to remove wastes effectively. Causative diseases seen more frequently in children and adolescents include:

  • IgA nephropathy
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpura
  • hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis
  • Associated diseases generally seen more frequently in adults:
  • SLE
  • ;
  • lupus nephritis
  • membranoproliferative GN I
  • membranoproliferative GN II
  • infective endocarditis
  • vasculitis
  • rapidly progressive (crescentic) glomerulonephritis
  • Goodpasture's syndrome
  • Klebsiella
  • pneumonia
  • abdominal
  • abscesses
  • viral diseases:
  • mononucleosis , measles , mumps , and so on
  • typhoid fever
  • hepatitis
  • syphilis
  • and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Inflammation disrupts the functioning of the glomerulus, which is the part of the kidney that controls filtering and excretion. Inefficient glomerular functioning results in the loss of blood and protein in the urine and the accumulation of excess fluid in the body. Swelling results when protein is lost from the blood stream. (Protein maintains fluid within the blood vessels, and when it is lost the fluid collects in the tissues of the body). Urine discoloration results from blood in the urine . This occurs because of loss of blood within the damaged glomeruli. Acute nephritic syndrome may be associated with the development of hypertension, interstitial inflammation (inflammation of the spaces between the cells of the kidney tissue), and acute renal failure .

    Signs and tests

  • Blood pressure
  • may be elevated. There may be signs of fluid overload (more fluid in the circulation than the heart can effectively pump), including abnormal heart and lung sounds. The jugular (neck) veins may be distended from increased venous pressure. Generalized
  • edema is often present. Examination of the abdomen with the hands ( palpation ) may indicate fluid overload and enlarged liver . There may be signs of acute renal failure in addition to the above symptoms.
  • Urinalysis
  • may show
  • protein , renal tubular cells, blood, white blood cells, and casts .
  • Protein, urine
  • test may be positive.
  • Urine appearance and color
  • are abnormal
  • Azotemia
  • (collection of nitrogen-containing waste products in the blood) may be evidenced by:
  • elevated
  • BUN
  • elevated
  • creatinine
  • The
  • creatinine clearance may be decreased.
  • A
  • potassium test may be elevated.
  • A
  • kidney biopsy reveals glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the glomeruli) and may indicate the cause. Tests for the cause of the acute nephritic syndrome may include:
  • culture of the throat
  • or skin
  • blood culture
  • ANA
  • titer
  • (
  • lupus )
  • serum
  • complement ( C3 and C4 )
  • ANCA (antinutrophil cytoplasmic
  • antibody for vasculitis)
  • anti-glomerular basement membrane
  • antibody
  • Treatment

    The goal of treatment is to reduce glomerular inflammation. Hospitalization is required for diagnosis and treatment of many forms of acute nephritic syndrome. The cause must be identified and treated. This may include antibiotics or other medications or treatment. Bedrest may be recommended. The diet may include restriction of salt, and/or fluids, and/or potassium. Medications may include anti-hypertensive medications to control high blood pressure . Corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce inflammation. Other treatment of acute renal failure may be appropriate.

    Support groups

    The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See kidney disease - support group .

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The probable outcome is variable and depends on the disease responsible for the nephritis. When improvement occurs, symptoms associated with fluid retention (such as swelling and cough ) and hypertension may resolve in a week or two, while urine tests take months to return to normal. Children tend to do better than adults and usually recover completely. Only rarely do they develop complications or progress to chronic glomerulonephritis . Adults do not recover quite as well or as rapidly as children. Although recurrence is unusual, at least one-third of adults whose acute nephritic syndrome recurs will eventually develop end-stage renal disease .


  • acute renal failure
  • chronic glomerulonephritis
  • chronic renal failure
  • end-stage renal disease
  • hypertension
  • congestive heart failure
  • pulmonary edema
  • nephrotic syndrome
  • Calling your health care provider

  • Call your health care provider if symptoms that are suggestive of acute nephritic syndrome develop.
  • Prevention

    Many times the disorder cannot be prevented, although treatment of illness and infection may help to reduce the risk.

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