Nephrotic Syndrome is a set of signs and symptoms that may be a result of kidney malfunction. It shows the presence of high levels of proteins in urine (proteinurea), high fat and cholesterol levels in the blood (hyperlipidemia), swelling of the legs, feet or ankles and sometimes in the face, though very rare; low levels of Albumin in the blood (hypoalbumia).
Nephrotic Syndrome is not a disease but a type of warning which says that something is wrong with the kidneys and the same should be treated immediately.
Nephrotic Syndrome signals you that the kidneys are not functioning properly due to some problem. The kidneys act as filters in our body where the excess water and salts and other impurities are flushed out of the body in the form of urine. When the filtering process is obstructed it results in this condition.
The presence of excess proteins in urine and less protein in the blood is a warning sign that there is no protein in the blood to soak up the water. This then travels to the body tissues which swell due to pooling of water.
Nephrotic Syndrome in children is most commonly caused by ‘minimal change disease’ and in adults by ‘membranous glomerulonephritis’. Minimal change disease is caused by damage to the tiny blood vessels (glomeruli) in the nephron which filter the blood to make waste and urine. The disease gets its name due to the fact that this damage is only visible under an electron microscope. The syndrome appears after or is related to tumors, NSAID use, allergic reactions, vaccinations and viral infections.
In children, Nephrotic Syndrome occurs commonly in the age bracket of 2 – 6 years, though it can occur at anytime. It is more prevalent among males than females.
The signs and symptoms include:
Swelling around the eyes, feet and ankles in children and adults.
Foamy appearance of urine
Shortness of breath and dry skin.
Weight gain (unintentional) from fluid retention
Tests results may show high levels of protein in urine, low levels of protein in blood, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels and low levels of iron and vitamin D.
The presence of above signs and symptoms plus the blood and urine tests reports will help determine the condition of Nephrotic Syndrome.
Apart from these, tests for blood profile, kidney ultrasound, 24 hour urine collection and blood albumin, blood keratinize blood urea nitrogen tests.
In adults, test for diabetes and biopsy is advised sometimes to detect the cause of Nephrotic Syndrome.
The treatment for Nephrotic Syndrome depends upon the diagnosis of the underlying condition which is causing it. Treatment also depends on the age of the patient as children are most affected. The treatment is only to relieve the symptoms and slow down the kidney damage. Lifelong medication may be required in certain cases.
The experts who are consulted are Nephrologists and Pediatric Nephrologists.
Children with Nephrotic Syndrome have normal life expectancy and do well after treatment.
Nephrotic Syndrome is caused by some other underlying condition. Once the causing factor is determined then managing of the symptoms by medications becomes easy.
The main organ affected is the kidney. The earlier the person controls the factors causing damage to the kidney, the better.
A well balanced diet, fair amount of exercise, healthy lifestyle and most importantly avoiding smoking will help a person lead a quality life with Nephrotic Syndrome.