Nephrotic syndrome happens when damage to your kidneys causes them to release too much protein into your urine. Other characteristics of this disease include:
Nephrotic syndrome isn't itself a disease. Diseases that damage blood vessels in your kidneys cause this condition.
Symptoms of nephrotic syndrome include:
Your kidneys are filled with tiny blood vessels, called glomeruli. As your blood moves through these vessels, extra water and waste products are filtered into the urine. Protein and other substances that your body needs stay in your bloodstream.
Nephrotic syndrome happens when the glomeruli are damaged and can't properly filter your blood. Damage to these blood vessels allows protein to leak into your urine.
Albumin is one of the proteins lost in the urine. Albumin helps pull extra fluid from your body into your kidneys. This fluid is then removed in the urine. Without albumin, your body holds onto the extra fluid. This causes swelling (edema) in your legs, feet, ankles, and face.
Some conditions that cause nephrotic syndrome only affect the kidneys. These are called primary causes of nephrotic syndrome. These conditions include:
Other diseases that cause nephrotic syndrome affect the whole body. These are called secondary causes of nephrotic syndrome. These conditions include:
Some medications, including antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), have also been linked to nephrotic syndrome.
Your doctor can treat the condition that caused nephrotic syndrome, as well as the symptoms of this syndrome.
Blood pressure medications lower blood pressure, and reduce the amount of protein lost in the urine. These medications include:
Diuretics cause your kidneys to release extra fluid, which brings down swelling. These medications include:
Statins lower cholesterol levels. These medications include:
Because of the increased risk for infection, your doctor may recommend that you get a pneumococcal vaccine and yearly flu shot.
Diet is also important for controlling nephrotic syndrome. Limit the amount of salt you eat to prevent swelling and to control your blood pressure. Your doctor may also suggest that you drink less fluid to reduce swelling.
Nephrotic syndrome can increase your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, so try to eat a diet that's low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Although this condition causes you to lose protein in your urine, eating extra protein is not recommended. A high-protein diet can make nephrotic syndrome worse.
Damage to the kidneys from nephrotic syndrome can lead to these complications:
Children can also get nephrotic syndrome. Just as in adults, there are two types of nephrotic syndrome that affect children:
In children, nephrotic syndrome causes these symptoms:
Kids with childhood nephrotic syndrome get more infections than usual. This is because the proteins that normally protect them from infection are lost in the urine. They may also have high blood cholesterol.
Treatments for childhood nephrotic syndrome include:
Children who are born with nephrotic syndrome (congenital nephrotic syndrome), may eventually need a kidney transplant.