by Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH
Glomerulonephritis is damage to the glomeruli. Glomeruli are the tiny structures within the kidney that filter blood.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs located in the back just below the rib cage. Each kidney is about the size of a fist. The two kidneys filter blood, catch needed substances and return them to the circulation, and dispose of wastes in the urine. If the kidneys don’t filter properly, wastes build up in the blood.
There are two types of glomerulonephritis:
Causes of glomerulonephritis include:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your chance of glomerulonephritis include:
Glomerulonephritis sometimes causes no symptoms and is discovered during a routine urine test. When present, the symptoms of acute and chronic glomerulonephritis differ from one another.
The symptoms of acute glomerulonephritis may include:
Chronic glomerulonephritis can lead to kidney failure. Symptoms may include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a nephrologist who specializes in kidney disease for further diagnostic testing and treatment.
Tests may include
Imaging tests evalate the kidneys and surrounding structures. This can be done with:
Treatment will depend on the cause of glomerulonephritis. The following steps may be taken to help kidney function or reduce further damage:
Glomerulonephritis can be treated with:
Dialysis and Transplant TOP
If the kidneys are unable to remove sufficient waste from the blood, dialysis may be required. Temporary dialysis may be sufficient for acute glomerulonephritis. If it leads to permanent kidney failure, chronic glomerulonephritis will require long-term dialysis or kidney transplant.
To help reduce your chance of glomerulonephritis:
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Kidney Foundation
Kidney Foundation of Canada
Glomerulonephritis (list of topics). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated June 1, 2010. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Glomerulonephritis. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/glomerul. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 5/28/2014