The term kidney inflammation or glomerulonephritis includes several diseases of the kidney. All forms of kidney inflammation lead to disorders and inflammation of the kidney tissue or kidney cortex. The most common cause of kidney infections are autoimmune reactions of the body’s immune system.
What is kidney inflammation?
The term nephritis generally covers a number of different diseases. They all have one thing in common: part of the kidney tissue – the renal cortex – becomes inflamed as part of an autoimmune reaction. See definitionexplorer for MNS Definitions.
In terms of the term, nephritis is therefore not an independent disease, but a collective term for symptoms of various diseases in which the kidneys are involved.
The following diseases belong to the kidney inflammation:
- acute glomerulonephritis
- Rapidly Progressive Glomerulonephritis (RPGN)
- nephritic syndrome
- chronic glomerulonephritis
- asymptomatic proteinuria
Inflammation of the kidneys is initially a “silent” disease, since it usually causes no pain. However, since both kidneys are affected and they may no longer be able to perform their blood filtering function (kidney failure is imminent), kidney inflammation can be a serious illness.
The actual cause of kidney inflammation is a stress reaction (autoimmune reaction) of the body to an existing disease. In this case, the immune system attacks the body’s own structures – in this case parts of the kidneys – in the sense of defence.
The diseases mentioned above, which all come under the term kidney inflammation (glomerulonephritis), have one thing in common: kidney inflammation is an inflammation of the renal cortex – i.e. the outer layer of the kidney. The filter cells in the kidney corpuscles (glomeruli) are particularly affected, which means that they can no longer perform their filtering function of the blood sufficiently well.
Glomerulonephritis can be distinguished from inflammation of the kidneys caused by bacteria, eg in the course of an untreated inflammation of the renal pelvis (pyelonephritis), because its inflammation is consistently not purulent and occurs on both sides. That means both kidneys are affected. The inflammation of the kidneys is also usually painless – it is therefore often not discovered for a long time or only by chance. But the kidneys are vital organs. It is therefore very important to diagnose and treat kidney inflammation quickly!
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Acute kidney inflammation is initially expressed by an apparently suddenly occurring feeling of illness. This is accompanied by symptoms such as loss of appetite, exhaustion or fever. It can also lead to chills, an increased heart rate and other cardiovascular problems. Typical are dull, usually throbbing pains in the lateral upper abdomen.
Often there are also signs of a bladder infection, i.e. pain when urinating, a frequent urge to urinate and abdominal pain. Occasionally, these symptoms appear insidiously and are accompanied by other symptoms. This can lead to headaches, weight loss and abdominal pain. Signs of intestinal obstruction indicate advanced kidney inflammation.
The chronic form of kidney inflammation often develops over the course of months or years. Those affected notice increasing exhaustion, often accompanied by back pain, irritation of the gastrointestinal tract as well as nausea and vomiting. In the long term, weight loss and deficiency symptoms occur.
As a result of the disturbed blood formation, anemia can develop, which is also expressed by deficiency symptoms such as fatigue, poor performance and pale skin. Chronic pyelonephritis is also manifested by reddish to cloudy urine and pain when urinating. In the advanced stages, only a little urine is excreted, which leads to high blood pressure. If the kidney infection is treated comprehensively, the symptoms usually subside. In the absence of treatment, long-term consequences are possible.
If acute kidney inflammation (glomerulonephritis) is diagnosed early, there are good chances of recovery. However, acute kidney inflammation can also develop into a chronic form if the symptoms are ignored. As a result of delayed glomerulonephritis, the nephrotic syndrome often develops as a complication. Nephrotic syndrome is characterized by the renal corpuscles becoming permeable to proteins.
This permeability can increase even further over time. Due to the increased excretion of proteins with the urine, there is finally a protein deficiency in the blood. This in turn leads to water retention in the legs or eyelids, which is also known as edema. Even dropsy (ascites) can develop. Furthermore, the lipid metabolism is disturbed in the nephrotic syndrome. Blood lipid levels are elevated.
In the context of the nephrotic syndrome, thrombosis often occurs as a complication. In addition, the immune system is weakened. As a result, frequent infections occur. Finally, the nephrotic syndrome can even lead to kidney failure. In order to protect the kidneys from complete failure, the blood must be regularly cleaned of toxins with the help of a so-called dialysis. However, nephrotic syndrome is curable with intensive treatment. In many cases, however, permanent kidney damage remains. In extreme cases, a kidney transplant is necessary to save life.
When should you go to the doctor?
A doctor should be consulted as soon as abdominal pain develops that is not caused by the female menstrual period. If you feel unwell, have problems urinating, feel exhausted or have an increased body temperature, you should see a doctor. A decrease in resilience, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and refusal to eat are alarming and should be checked out by a doctor.
Weight loss and headaches are signs of a health condition that should be evaluated and treated. If the symptoms persist unabated for several days or if they increase in intensity, a doctor is needed. Feeling ill, loss of libido, or pain during sex are indicators that should be followed up. If you experience back pain, a reduction in your ability to perform, or if you can no longer adequately fulfill your everyday obligations, a doctor’s visit is advisable.
A frequent urge to urinate that comes back immediately after going to the toilet and abnormalities in the amount of urine excreted must be discussed with a doctor. Without adequate therapy, the pathogens can spread further in the organism and lead to a further deterioration in the general condition. If you have trouble sleeping, or have problems concentrating or paying attention, you should consult a doctor so that a treatment plan can be drawn up.
Treatment & Therapy
Depending on how severe the inflammation of the kidneys (glomerulonephritis) is, the following treatment options are available: If the protein excretion and excretion of red blood cells in the urine (as a result of the poor filtering function of the blood) is only slight, a regular check-up without further treatment is initially required.
As a rule, however, an “immunosuppressive therapy”, eg with cortisone, is necessary in the case of kidney inflammation. This suppresses the overreacting immune system, which prevents the kidney inflammation from progressing. This is particularly important because the kidneys can fail in the event of a severe acute or chronic course. Then a permanent dialysis (blood washing) would be necessary to take over the filtering of the blood.
It is also important to lower blood pressure that is too high, as this puts additional strain on the filter function of the kidneys and causes lasting damage. As long as the kidneys are still functioning well enough, you should ensure that you drink enough fluids. In some cases of kidney inflammation, a diet low in salt and protein is also recommended. So far, there is no form of therapy that treats the causes of kidney inflammation (glomerulonephritis).
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of kidney inflammation is fundamentally very variable, since it depends on the type, severity and, last but not least, the course (acute/chronic). Both acute and chronic nephritis severely damage the kidney if left untreated. Acute kidney inflammation often heals with timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If left untreated, however, it can lead to complete kidney failure in severe cases.
Early diagnosis and treatment are particularly important in “rapidly progressive) glomerulonephritis” – also known as RPGN. The latter often takes a severe course and leads to kidney failure relatively quickly. In fact, four out of ten patients diagnosed with RPGN need to have their blood washed (dialysis).
The right treatment also seems extremely important in the case of a kidney infection that can no longer be cured. In many cases, a progressive deterioration in kidney function can be prevented or at least slowed down until the patient is dependent on blood purification or a kidney transplant.
If, on the other hand, kidney inflammation does not cause any symptoms, no or only minimal protein and blood is excreted in the urine and kidney function and blood pressure are normal, it is usually sufficient if the patient is examined by the doctor at regular intervals. Of course, these tests should also include blood and urine tests.
A kidney infection can be prevented by the following measures: Infections caused by streptococci (e.g. scarlet fever) should be treated with antibiotics in good time and for a sufficient period of time. This prevents post-infectious kidney inflammation.
Other diseases that can lead to a severe form of kidney inflammation (nephritic syndrome) should also be treated consistently. Special attention should be paid to diabetes mellitus (diabetes). Furthermore, it is advantageous to drink a lot, to avoid alcohol and smoking and to maintain a healthy and sporty lifestyle in general.
Follow-up care for a kidney infection consists of regular check-ups of the affected kidney. The organ is examined using ultrasound and other imaging tests to check for any complications. Blood pressure and the condition of the ureters may also be checked.
The doctor also scans the kidney region and visually checks the patient for unusual symptoms or signs of any concomitant diseases. The accompanying anamnesis serves to identify complications and to answer open questions that the patient may have. If no abnormalities are found and the patient has no further questions, the aftercare can be completed after a single check-up.
A final examination is usually carried out one to two weeks after recovery. If healing is very slow, further check-ups are necessary. The same applies to chronic complaints and to older or physically weakened patients. In the case of chronic and protracted courses, weekly routine checks by a specialist are recommended.
The medication is also checked during the appointments and adjusted if necessary. In addition, depending on the symptoms, the patient is referred to a physiotherapist or specialist, who can initiate additional therapeutic measures. Follow-up care is provided by a nephrologist or general practitioner.
You can do that yourself
If you have an existing kidney infection, you should drink plenty of fluids. Up to three liters per day are recommended for those affected. The high fluid intake helps to transport bacteria from the kidney. Alcohol, black tea or caffeinated beverages should not be consumed. These products have a negative effect on the organism and the functioning of the kidneys. Consuming medicinal teas, green tea and non-carbonated water is healthier and more beneficial.
When going to the toilet, make sure that the bladder is always completely emptied. This allows more bacteria to be eliminated from the body. In addition, urination should be more frequent than normal. The body needs sufficient warmth during the period of complaints. The back and lower abdomen can be warmed several times a day with a hot -water bottle. It is also advisable to wear warm and breathable clothing. Regular sitz baths with chamomile are also considered beneficial and health-promoting. In particular, care must be taken to ensure that the kidney region is spared from the effects of draughts.
Sufficient rest and rest are particularly helpful in the initial phase of the disease. Bed rest is required for advanced nephritis . Physical exertion should be avoided and regular breaks should be taken in all activities that take place.