In the structure of the kidneys, the glomeruli are of vital importance. Glomerulosclerosis is the hardening of the glomeruli, which are the blood vessels located in the become. The primary function of the glomeruli is to remove waste from the body and send out the liquid as urine.
When the glomeruli are damaged, then they do not perform, which results in large amounts of protein leaking into the urine. This condition is called proteinuria. It affects both children and adults.
Causes of Glomerulosclerosis
The disease called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is a kidney disease where scarring occurs in some of the glomeruli and it causes glomerulosclerosis. In FSGS, even though only part of the glomeruli is damaged, if left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure.
FSGS occurs without any apparent cause. It is then called primary FSGS. At times FSGS may be caused due to several other conditions like HIV infection, obesity, birth defects of kidneys, drug abuse and sickle cell disease.
When certain conditions damage the kidneys, it leads to glomerulosclerosis. These include glomerulonephritis, which is caused when the glomeruli becomes inflamed and reflux nephropathy, in which urine flows back into the kidney. Certain chemicals and medicines harm the kidneys leading to glomerulosclerosis.
Symptoms of Glomerulosclerosis
The disease may go undetected in the beginning, as there are no apparent signs. Over time though symptoms develop and most prominently, there will be swelling in the hands, feet, legs, abdomen and around the eyes. The swellings will turn painful and rapid weight gain can also be observed.
The urine may turn foamy and bubbly, indicating the presence of protein in it and is caused by proteinuria. Usually, the condition is discovered during routine urine checks and will reveal as high protein content in the urine. If this has led to glomerulosclerosis, then the patient will have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Diagnosis of Glomerulosclerosis
The best way to diagnose glomerulosclerosis is to get a kidney biopsy done. This is so because the symptoms are common to many other kidney problems. In a kidney biopsy, the tissue can be examined for scarring. It may require multiple biopsies to be sure since the damage or scarring does not occur throughout the kidney. Other tests include a test for filtration rate, kidney ultrasound and genetic testing.
What are the treatments?
There is no specific treatment or drugs to control glomerulosclerosis disease. There are though several treatments that can slow its progress and control the symptoms.
Ceratin blood pressure medicines are used to control protein loss. Some immune system suppressing drugs are used to reduce protein loss and improve kidney function. Anticoagulants to control clotting and diuretics to remove excess salt from the body are also prescribed. Along with this low salt diet, exercise and vitamins complete the treatment plan.
Even after all the treatment, the kidney may fail and finally, the patient will have to undergo dialysis.