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Glomerulosclerosis

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What is glomerulosclerosis?

Glomerulosclerosis is the term used to describe scarring that occurs within the kidneys in the collections of tiny blood vessels called the glomeruli. The glomeruli assist the kidneys in filtering urine from the blood.

What causes glomerulosclerosis?

Glomerulosclerosis may develop in children or adults, and may result from different types of kidney conditions as well as diabetes.

What are the symptoms of glomerulosclerosis?

Early stages of glomerulosclerosis may not cause any symptoms. The most important warning sign of glomerular disease is proteinuria--large amounts of protein in the urine--that is usually discovered during a routine medical examination. However, the loss of large amounts of protein could cause swelling in the ankles or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, puffy eyes, or generalized fluid retention.

What is a glomerulus?

The function of the kidneys is to remove liquid waste from the blood in the form of urine; keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood; and produce a hormone called erythropoietin, which aids the formation of red blood cells.

The kidneys remove urea from the blood through tiny filtering units called nephrons.

Each nephron consists of a ball formed of small blood capillaries, called a glomerulus (plural: glomeruli), and a small tube called a renal tubule.

How is glomerulosclerosis diagnosed?

Scarring disrupts the filtering process of the kidneys allowing protein to leak from the blood into the urine, where it can be detected.

Because glomerulosclerosis is just one of many possible causes of proteinuria, a kidney biopsy may be needed to determine if the cause is actually glomerulosclerosis. About 7 to 15 percent of people with proteinuria are diagnosed with glomerulosclerosis.

What is the treatment for glomerulosclerosis?

Specific treatment for glomerulosclerosis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

Scarred glomeruli cannot be repaired. The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage and to avoid dialysis. The best treatment for glomerulosclerosis depends on what caused the scarring. The cause is determined by a kidney biopsy. Treatment may include:

  • Immunosuppressant drugs. Drugs used to block the body's immune system.
  • Dialysis. A medical treatment to remove wastes and additional fluid from the blood after the kidneys have stopped functioning.
  • Kidney transplantation. A procedure that places a healthy kidney from one person into a recipient's body.
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Diet modification

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