CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
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|Kidney cross section|
A variety of conditions can cause glomerulonephritis, ranging from infections that affect your kidneys to diseases that affect your whole body, including your kidneys. Sometimes the cause is unknown. Here are some examples of conditions that can lead to inflammation of the kidneys' glomeruli:
- Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. Glomerulonephritis may develop a week or two after recovery from a strep throat infection or, rarely, a skin infection (impetigo). An overproduction of antibodies stimulated by the infection may eventually settle in the glomeruli, causing inflammation. Symptoms usually include swelling, reduced urine output and blood in the urine. Children are more likely to develop post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis than are adults, and they're also more likely to recover quickly.
- Bacterial endocarditis. Bacteria can occasionally spread through your bloodstream and lodge in your heart, causing an infection of one or more of your heart valves. Those at greatest risk are people with a heart defect, such as a damaged or artificial heart valve. Bacterial endocarditis is associated with glomerular disease, but the exact connection between the two is unclear.
- Viral infections. Among the viral infections that may trigger glomerulonephritis are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, and the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses.
- Lupus. A chronic inflammatory disease, lupus can affect many parts of your body, including your skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs.
- Goodpasture's syndrome. A rare immunological lung disorder that may mimic pneumonia, Goodpasture's syndrome causes bleeding (hemorrhage) into your lungs as well as glomerulonephritis.
- IgA nephropathy. Characterized by recurrent episodes of blood in the urine, this primary glomerular disease results from deposits of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the glomeruli. IgA nephropathy can progress for years with no noticeable symptoms. The disorder seems to be more common in men than in women.
- Polyarteritis. This form of vasculitis affects small and medium blood vessels in many parts of your body, such as your heart, kidneys and intestines.
- Wegener's granulomatosis. This form of vasculitis affects small and medium blood vessels in your lungs, upper airways and kidneys.
Conditions that are likely to cause scarring of the glomeruli
- High blood pressure. Damage to your kidneys and their ability to perform their normal functions can occur as a result of high blood pressure. Glomerulonephritis can also cause high blood pressure because it reduces kidney function.
- Diabetic kidney disease. Diabetic kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy) can affect anyone with diabetes. Diabetic nephropathy usually takes years to develop. Good control of blood sugar levels and blood pressure may prevent or slow kidney damage.
- Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Characterized by scattered scarring of some of the glomeruli, this condition may result from another disease or occur for no known reason.
Chronic glomerulonephritis sometimes develops after a bout of acute glomerulonephritis. In some people there's no history of kidney disease, so the first indication of chronic glomerulonephritis is chronic kidney failure. Infrequently, chronic glomerulonephritis runs in families. One inherited form, Alport syndrome, may also involve hearing or vision impairment.
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