hands holding red heart and kidney

When your kidneys don’t filter out waste products properly, you may end up with a surplus of protein in your urine — and that could lead to serious consequences.

Nephrotic syndrome refers to a condition in which the kidneys fail to filter surplus waste products and liquids from your blood. When the blood vessels in your kidneys known as glomeruli work properly, those unneeded byproducts are flushed out through your urine.

But if the glomeruli are damaged, a blood protein called albumin builds up in the urine, and your body loses some of its ability to support bone and muscle health and fight infections. Signs of proteinuria (excess protein in the urine) include swelling of the face, legs, feet, and ankles; excessive fatigue; weight gain due to fluid retention; diminished appetite, and foamy urine. Fortunately, nephrotic syndrome is treatable.

Nephrotic Syndrome: Causes and Treatments

The causes of nephrotic syndrome are considered either primary and secondary. A common primary cause among adults is focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), or a scarring of the glomeruli resulting from certain medications (like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), a virus (HIV, for example), or a birth defect.

The condition may be also caused by another chronic condition, such as diabetes, that damages the kidneys. Other secondary causes of nephrotic syndrome range from lupus and cancer to hepatitis B. These conditions lead to a thickening of the glomeruli membranes that impair kidney function. Nephrotic syndrome has been linked to amyloidosis, which occurs when amyloid proteins cluster in the organs and cripple the kidneys’ ability to filter waste outputs.

To detect nephrotic syndrome, you can take either a urine test or a blood test. A urine test can determine whether too much blood has passed through your urine, and a blood test can measure if you have too little protein in your bloodstream. A lack of protein in the blood means your liver produces albumin, which causes it to release an excessive amount of cholesterol and triglycerides.

If left untreated, nephrotic syndrome could lead to other serious conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, blood clots, and kidney disease. Your treatment regimen will be dictated by the actual cause, but possible treatments include hypertension medication, blood thinners, diuretics, or medications to reduce bad cholesterol. If nephrotic syndrome is attributed to FSGS, you could eventually develop advanced kidney disease that requires dialysis or a transplant.

In addition to medical therapies, you can treat nephrotic syndrome with dietary changes. Reduce your protein intake by switching to plant-based proteins. To control cholesterol, choose low-fat foods. Drink less fluids, and most importantly, stay away from salty foods to prevent swelling and high blood pressure.

Take Care of Your Kidneys

Nephrotic syndrome is a serious renal disorder, but it can be treated successfully. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of the condition, consulting with a kidney specialist at Southern Massachusetts Dialysis Group will help you maintain your renal function. Contact us today for an appointment.