Inflammation Diseases of the Kidneys 

Inflammation of the kidney is called nephritis. In Greek terms, nephro means “of the kidney” and itis means “inflammation.” The causes for nephritis include infections, autoimmune disorders and toxins in the body. 

Glomerulonephritis 

Glomerulonephritis, also called glomerular disease, happens when the internal kidney structures (glomeruli) become inflamed. This type of kidney disease can be acute or chronic, and causes loss of protein out of the blood, as well as white and red blood cells to leak from the blood into the urine. It can come on from infections such as the chicken pox, malaria or strep throat. At times, glomerulonephritis shows few symptoms at first. When symptoms are mild, they include swollen feet, cloudy or bloody urine and nausea. As symptoms get worse, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, abdominal pain and even seizures can occur. Urine and blood tests should be done to determine if you have this type of kidney inflammation. Because symptoms are mild at first, your doctor will continue to monitor its’ progression. When someone has severe and acute glomerulonephritis, a combination of a healthy diet, prescribed medicines for high blood pressure and antibiotics for the infection may help. 

Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN)

Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) is another glomerular disease that occurs mostly in children and teenagers. Over time, inflammation leads to scarring in the glomeruli, which can sometimes lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end stage renal disease (ESRD). A symptom of MPGN is blood in the urine, making it look pink or red; sometimes urine takes on a tea or soda-like color. Swelling or edema can occur, especially around the stomach, eyes, feet and legs. Fluid retention happens because the kidneys are not removing it properly. Urine and blood tests, such as a creatinine test, are used to determine if a child has MPGN. A kidney biopsy may also be done. To treat MPGN, steroid medicines are an option, although children sometimes do not respond well to steroids. Monitoring and managing protein in the urine is a treatment, too. ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) help stop the loss of protein in the urine. Diet is also a crucial part in treating MPGN. Each child’s scenario is different. Because MPGN is a chronic condition, it can lead to kidney failure, which can happen gradually over the years.  

Interstitial nephritis 

Interstitial nephritis is inflammation of the kidney cells that are not part of the fluid-collecting units, a condition that can lead to acute renal failure or chronic kidney disease. The causes of interstitial nephritis are allergic reaction or side effect from medicine such as antibiotics, or the long-term use of acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Blood in the urine, swelling, weight gain, nausea and fever are some symptoms of interstitial nephritis. Your doctor may listen for abnormal sounds in the heart and lungs. A urinalysis, kidney biopsy, blood count and blood creatinine levels are taken to determine the disease. High blood pressure is common for this disease, so limiting sodium in the diet is important. Also avoiding medicines that may have caused interstitial nephritis is a way to treat it. Some patients with acute disease will need to go on dialysis for a short time. For the most part, interstitial nephritis is an acute disorder, rarely leading to permanent kidney damage. 

IgA nephropathy (Berger’s disease)

IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, is caused by inflammation of the glomeruli. Blood and protein go into the urine due to waste filtration not functioning correctly. It is unknown why immunoglobulin A, an antibody that is supposed to protect the body from viruses, ends up in the kidneys causing inflammation. Symptoms include high blood pressure, blood in the urine (tea- or cola-like color), pain in your sides, edema and flu-like symptoms among other things. Urinalysis, blood tests and a kidney biopsy are the best ways to determine IgA nephropathy. Although this disease cannot be prevented and there is no cure, doctors can prescribe blood pressure medicine to reduce hypertension and vitamin E to lessen protein in the urine, and your dietitian can help you with a kidney-friendly diet. 

Pyelonephritis

Pyelonephritis is a urinary tract infection that moves from the bladder and reaches the pyelum (pelvis) of the kidney, making it a form of nephritis. Also referred to as pyelitis, this type of kidney inflammation disease is caused by kidney stones, infections in the bladder, catheter use to drain urine and defects in the urinary tract. Symptoms include blood and pus in the urine, pain during urination, pain in back and sides and urgent or infrequent urination. A urine test is usually done to diagnose pyelonephritis, but an x-ray may be performed to see if there are any abnormalities of the kidney, bladder and ureters. It requires antibiotics as therapy, and treatment of any underlying causes to prevent recurrence. Most treatment helps relieve pain caused by pyeleonephritis, and extreme cases may call for surgery. 

Autoimmune disorders related to CKD and inflammation

Inflammation can affect other organs besides the kidneys as part of an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is a disease in which your body makes the wrong immune response against the tissues in your body. Inflammation of the heart, lungs and large intestine are considered autoimmune disorders, along with inflammation of the kidneys. 

Lupus nephritis 

Lupus nephritis is related to chronic kidney disease and inflammation. Lupus nephritis is an inflammatory disease that causes the immune system to attack different parts of the body, such as the kidneys, heart, lungs, skin, joints, nervous system and blood vessels. This autoimmune disease stops antibodies from working properly. The exact cause is unknown, but gender, heredity, viruses, infections and environmental reasons may play a role in getting lupus nephritis. Symptoms can range from swelling of the legs and arms to high blood pressure and dark urine. Urine and blood tests are used to detect lupus nephritis. Your doctor may perform a kidney biopsy as well. He or she may also have you talk to your dietitian about lowering protein, sodium and potassium in your diet. The severity of the symptoms determines which medicines your doctor gives you. Corticosteroids can be prescribed to reduce swelling, and for serious cases, cyclophosphamide or mycophenolate may be given. 

Goodpasture’s syndrome

Another autoimmune disorder related to chronic kidney disease and inflammation is Goodpasture’s syndrome. This rare disease attacks both the kidneys and lungs, eventually leading to kidney failure and lung disease. Subtle symptoms include coughing up blood, fatigue, trouble breathing and nausea. A blood test can be done by your doctor to see if you have Goodpasture’s syndrome. Bleeding of the lungs can last from 2 weeks to 2 years, depending on the severity of the disease. But the damage it does to the kidneys can be permanent for some. 

Wegener’s granulomatosis 

Wegener's granulomatosis affects kidneys, as well as the upper respiratory tract and lungs. Like lupus, the disease can attack your nervous system, heart, skin and joints, in addition to your eyes and ears, and the causes are unknown. Symptoms include constant runny nose, eye redness and irritation, coughing up blood, fatigue, joint pain and ear infection. In order to detect Wegener’s granulomatosis, the doctor will do a blood test that can detect certain proteins in your blood. Coupled with the blood test are urine tests, chest x-ray and a biopsy. Immunosuppressive drugs such as corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide methotrexate and azathioprine may be prescribed, but not all at once because each case is different. A kidney transplant can also be considered. As you treat Wegener’s granulomatosis, you are likely to recover. Educating yourself on the disease can best prepare you for what you may experience and what you need to ask your doctor.

Treating inflammation diseases of the kidneys 

Depending on the type of inflammation disease of the kidney you have, your doctor can prescribe specific medicines to help you treat it. Talk to your doctor before you take any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, for these medicines are generally not recommended for people with kidney disease. Also talk to your renal dietitian about how you can stick to a kidney diet.

Summary 

Inflammation is the body’s response to fight off bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances. In people with chronic kidney disease, inflammation can be damaging . From glomerulonephritis to autoimmune disorders such as lupus and Goodpasture’s syndrome, inflammation diseases of the kidney are a serious matter. With help from your doctor and dietitian, you may be able to treat your inflammation disease.

Related articles on DaVita.com


View All Articles in Assessing Your Risk


Have no fear, Diet Helper is here

Download a Cookbook

Get a free recipe collection from the DaVita® kitchen.

No-Cost Kidney Health Classes

Find a no-cost, in-person class near you.

Find a Dialysis Center

Over 2,000 across the US.

Advanced Search

Or call 1-800-424-6589 now to speak with a placement specialist.

DaVita

© 2004-2014 DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. All rights reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy of medical information | Web Privacy Policy | Safe Harbor Privacy | FAQs | Site map
This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a physician.
Please check with a physician if you need a diagnosis and/or for treatments as well as information regarding your specific condition. If you are experiencing urgent medical conditions, call 9-1-1

116