Nephrotic Syndrome

Your kidneys are your body's filtration devices. They produce urine, and remove water-soluble waste products from system. But sometimes your kidneys can malfunction and excrete too much protein with your urine – a condition known as nephrotic syndrome.

The condition is usually caused when your glomeruli – clusters of tiny blood vessels in your kidneys – become damaged. This damage may be as a result of various diseases, which include hepatitis B, malaria, lupus, cancer, diabetes, or amyloidosis. Blood clots and heart failure may also result in nephrotic syndrome.

Symptoms of nephrotic syndrome include:

  • Severe swelling, particularly around your eyes and in your ankles and feet
  • Foamy urine
  • Weight gain (due to excess fluid retention)

See a doctor if you exhibit any of these signs. She will likely attempt an initial diagnosis by testing your urine. The excessive amount of protein will be readily detectable in a urinalysis, although you may be asked to collect urine samples over 24 hours for a more accurate measure of the protein volume. A blood test will also be an indicator, as it can detect low levels of the protein albumin specifically and often decreased levels of blood protein overall. In certain cases, your doctor may perform a kidney biopsy, in which a special needle is inserted through your skin and into your kidney. Kidney tissue is collected and sent to a lab for testing.

The doctor will look to treat nephrotic syndrome by addressing the root cause of the condition. But she will also likely prescribe certain medications that will help you manage the symptoms, such as:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors which reduce blood pressure and also reduce the amount of protein released in urine.
  • Diuretics to help control swelling by increasing your kidneys' fluid output.
  • Statins, which will reduce your cholesterol levels.
  • Anticoagulants, or “blood tinners,” which will help decrease your blood's ability to clot and reduce your risk of developing blood clots.
  • Immune system-suppressing medications, such as corticosteroids, may decrease the inflammation often associated with kidney ailments.