The kidneys play a huge role in the body. Not only do the kidneys remove waste from the body, but they also maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, and are able to respond to different body needs by either concentration or diluting urine. The kidneys also secrete hormones that are important to many different physiological functions of the body, such as rennin, which regulates blood pressure. The kidneys are vital to the human body and each body must have at least one good kidney in order to function.
Nephritis is general inflammation of one or both of the kidneys. It is not a disease itself but rather a symptom of a bigger problem. It can affect both young and old alike. The inflammation can be caused by many different things.
There are two classifications of nephritis; acute and chronic. If symptoms appear very quickly, the nephritis is classified as acute. If symptoms develop very slowly over a long period of time, the nephritis is called chronic.
In addition to the two different classifications of nephritis, there are also many different types of nephritis. These include:
- Glomerulonephritis – This is characterized by inflammation of the glomerulus, which is a tuft of capillaries that carries out the first steps of filtering the blood. This is usually caused by an autoimmune disease or an infection.
- Lupus nephritis – This is inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erthematosus, which is an immune system disease.
- Pyelonephritis – This is a kidney infection from bacteria that usually spreads to the kidneys from the bladder.
- Interstitial Nephritis – This is an inflammation of kidney cells that are non fluid-collecting.
In about 60 per cent of adults and 90 per cent of children, nephritis will completely resolve. It can come and go many times in any individual’s life and cause only mild or no pain.
Symptoms of Nephritis
Chronic nephritis can fail to show symptoms for up to thirty years. When symptoms are present, they commonly appear as:
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- Feeling the need to urinate often
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- A buildup of fluid in the tissues which causes swelling. This is a symptom known as edema.
- Loin pain
- Feeling lethargic
- Losing weight without effort
- Trouble sleeping
- Headaches or problems thinking
- Protein in the urine
Causes of Nephritis
Acute nephritis is most commonly caused by an allergy to drug therapy. Usually, the drugs involved are analgesics, immunosuppressant used in transplantation and when treating autoimmune disorders, depressive disease drugs, and anti cancer drugs. Acute nephritis can also be caused by Streptococcus, viral infections, Legionella, and Sarcoidosis.
Both kinds of nephritis are caused by some sort of kidney damage. Things that can damage the kidneys are:
- High blood pressure.
- High blood sugar.
- Kidney infections or diseases.
- Inherited kidney problems.
- Narrowed or closed off renal artery. This can reduce the amount of blood that the kidney receives and needs.
- Long term use of certain medications.
- Allergic reactions to medications.
- Streptococcal infections that are left untreated.
Risk Factors of Developing Nephritis
People who are at higher risk for nephritis can often do something to lower their risk. Some of the risks of nephritis are:
- Chronic high blood pressure
- Overuse of certain medications such as painkillers
- Drug abuse
- Untreated streptococcal infections
- Having a family history of nephritis
- Premature birth
- Certain diseases, such as AIDS, cancer, sickle cell anemia, systemic lupus erthematosus, hepatitis C, and congestive heart failure.
- Bacterial infection
There are many different ways to prevent or reduce the risk of most kinds of nephritis. Even if a person has a disease which makes nephritis more likely, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of developing it.
- If you have diabetes, keep a very good watch on your blood sugar.
- If you have high blood pressure, there are certain medications that can be prescribed to keep it lower. Follow the doctor’s orders about how often and how much of the pills to take, even if your blood pressure seems to be under control. Some of these medications actually work to protect the kidney as well as lower blood pressure.
- If you suspect you may have a blocked renal artery, see a doctor. Sometimes, blockages can be opened or repaired, or kidney stones removed if they are the cause of the blockage.
- Cut back on the amount of painkillers you take. The painkillers that are bad for the kidneys include ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen.
- Don’t use illegal drugs.
- If your family has a history of kidney problems, have regular checkups to hopefully catch any issues early on.
- If you contract strep throat, get proper treatment so it doesn’t develop into nephritis.
- If you have any signs of kidney damage, see a doctor quickly. It is much easier to treat kidney damage in early stages of the disease than it is in the later stages.
If a patient has the symptoms of nephritis, a doctor will order a couple different lab tests. The purpose of the tests is to find out why the kidney are be swollen. Kidneys don’t just swell up on by themselves; there is a cause, it may just be hard to find. The doctor will test the urine for an infection or for protein. He or she will also test the blood. The blood test will measure how much urea and creatinine are in the blood. This will tell the doctor if the kidneys are filtering well or not.
A physical exam can be done to determine if the either of the kidneys are in fact inflamed. Ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs can all be done to look at the kidney and see how big the kidneys actually are. These tests also allow the doctor to estimate how much blood is getting to the kidneys and see any blockages. Another test that may be done is a kidney biopsy. In a biopsy, the doctor takes a small sample of kidney tissue and tests it to figure out what is causing the swelling. The doctor may do other tests if he or she suspects something different then a kidney disease.
Since nephritis is caused by some other condition besides the actually inflammation itself, the main course of treatment is to fix the underlying problem. Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) are the two most common causes for nephritis. If either of these are the problems, there are a couple things that can be done. If the person is overweight, the doctor may suggest losing weight to help manage the blood pressure or diabetes. Also, the doctor will suggest that the patient watches his or her blood pressure or blood sugar very closely. It is important for both of them to stay in the right ranges.
Regular exercise and a good diet are important parts of slowing down or treating a kidney disease. Abstaining from tobacco, smoking, and alcohol are also good ideas.
There are many ways to treat nephritis at home. These methods are pretty cheap and consist of going to the local grocery store and shopping around the produce section. Here is a list of some of the suggested methods:
- Carrot juice: mix a glass of carrot juice with a tablespoon of honey and a bit of fresh lime juice. Drink this first thing in the morning. This is said to be one of the most effect ways to treat nephritis at home.
- Banana: since bananas are low in protein and salt and high in carbohydrates, they are good for treating nephritis.
- Avocado: Avocados have a lot of minerals and not much protein, so they are also helpful for treating nephritis.
- Grapes: Grapes have low albumin and low sodium chloride, so they are good to eat during any kind of kidney disease process.
- Coconut Water: The water of one green coconut, taken twice a day, is a very safe diuretic.
- It is also suggested that a person with nephritis go on a fruit juice only diet for around 9 days. After the fruit juice diet, there should be six days of a fruit and fruit juice diet, followed by 4 days of a juice only diet.
Herbal Remedies for Nephritis
- Wild Yam Root is a good way to naturally treat nephritis. It is available in supplement form for about $6 a bottle. Some people do have mild side effects from the root, including nausea, and it is not tested for pregnant women. It has been proven to interact with some hormone therapies, so contact a doctor before starting a Wild Yam Root supplement if you are on any type of hormone medication.
- Nettle seed tincture is another herb that can be used to treat nephritis.
- Astragalus root and cooked rehmannia root mixed together seem to be an effect way to improve a diseased kidney. There are many supplements available with the two ingredients, among other things. The supplements are available for about $15 a bottle.
- Salvia root has been proven to help with nephritis. Some people experience dry mouth, dizziness, weakness, edema in the hands and feet, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, nausea, a fast heart beat, vomiting, and anxiety. The symptoms are usually very temporary. One hundred grams of salvia costs about $12.
Medicine used to treat nephritis
Generally, medicine prescribed when a patient has nephritis is to treat the cause of the inflammation. For example if a person has high blood pressure, they will be given pills to lower the blood pressure. The pills usually prescribed for blood pressure control when nephritis is a symptom are thaizide diuretics and beta blockers. Other medications prescribed are diuretic or anti-inflammatory medications. Diuretics work to get rid of excess fluid. If nephritis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be used to treat the cause.
If the disease gets to the point where one or both kidneys are not functioning, dialysis may be needed. Dialysis is a process where toxins are cleansed from a person’s blood. Normally, the kidney does this job, but if the kidney is diseased, it may not be able to perform this task. Dialysis normally takes three to four hours, and usually is done in a hospital. Treatments cost around $44,000 per year.
If a kidney’s efficiency drops down to 15 per cent or less, a transplant may be needed. To be a candidate for a transplant, the heart and lung should be working well, the patient must be willing to follow a strict regiment before and after surgery, and the infection must be gone. Transplants can cost as much as $38,000.