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Nephrotic syndrome is a group of symptoms that indicate your kidneys are not working properly. These symptoms include
Your kidneys are made up of about a million filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron includes a filter, called the glomerulus, and a tubule. The glomerulus filters your blood, and the tubule returns needed substances to your blood and removes wastes and extra water, which become urine. Nephrotic syndrome usually happens when the glomeruli are inflamed, allowing too much protein to leak from your blood into your urine.
Nephrotic syndrome is a combination of symptoms that can occur due to different causes. Among adults, the syndrome is most often caused by rare kidney diseases.
Nephrotic syndrome can affect children and adults of all ages.1
Nephrotic syndrome can lead to serious complications, including2
Symptoms of nephrotic syndrome can include3
Diseases that affect only the kidneys and lead to nephrotic syndrome are called primary causes of nephrotic syndrome. The most common primary causes of nephrotic syndrome are3
Other causes of nephrotic syndrome, also called secondary causes, include3
Your health care professional can diagnose nephrotic syndrome through urine tests. The urine tests show if you are losing too much protein in your urine.
Urine dipstick test. This simple test checks for albumin in your urine. Having albumin in the urine is called albuminuria. You collect the urine sample in a container during a visit to a health care professional’s office or lab. A health care professional places a strip of chemically treated paper, called a dipstick, into the urine for the test. The dipstick changes color if albumin is present in the urine.
To confirm the diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome, your health care professional may order one of these two urine tests
Your health care professional may also order blood tests to check for low levels of protein in your blood and other problems linked to nephrotic syndrome.
Once nephrotic syndrome has been diagnosed, your health care professional will use tests to identify what caused it and check your kidney function. Tests for finding the cause of nephrotic syndrome can include3
Treatment varies according to symptoms, causes, and the extent of kidney damage. Symptoms of nephrotic syndrome are most often treated with these medicines3
People with nephrotic syndrome should receive the pneumococcal vaccine, along with yearly flu shots, to prevent viral and bacterial infections.
Other treatments vary, depending on underlying causes. In some cases, you may need to take medicines that suppress your immune system. For more on how health care professionals treat the underlying causes of nephrotic syndrome, see the NIDDK health topic Glomerular Diseases.
Once the cause has been treated, nephrotic syndrome may go away and kidney function returns to normal. Some patients may experience periods of remission followed by times when symptoms reappear. In some cases, nephrotic syndrome may lead to kidney failure.
Eating, diet, and nutrition have not been shown to play a role in causing or preventing nephrotic syndrome. However, if you have developed nephrotic syndrome, your health care professional may recommend that you
The NIDDK conducts and supports clinical trials in many diseases and conditions, including kidney diseases. The trials look to find new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease and improve quality of life.
Clinical trials—and other types of clinical studies—are part of medical research and involve people like you. When you volunteer to take part in a clinical study, you help doctors and researchers learn more about disease and improve health care for people in the future.
Researchers are studying many aspects of nephrotic syndrome, such as
Watch a video of NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers explaining the importance of participating in clinical trials.
You can view a filtered list of clinical studies on nephrotic syndrome that are federally funded, open, and recruiting at www.ClinicalTrials.gov. You can expand or narrow the list to include clinical studies from industry, universities, and individuals; however, the National Institutes of Health does not review these studies and cannot ensure they are safe. Always talk with your health care provider before you participate in a clinical study.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Andrew S. Bomback, M.D., Columbia University Irving Medical Center