First Time User? Enroll now.
*Vaccine availability and appointments* | Visitor and mask policies | Additional COVID-19 resources.
Home > Health Library > Nephrotic Syndrome
Nephrotic syndrome is a sign that your kidneys aren't working right. As a result, you have:
You may also have high levels of cholesterol in your blood.
Nephrotic syndrome isn't a disease. It's a warning that something is damaging your kidneys. Without treatment, that problem could cause kidney failure. So it's important to get treatment right away.
Nephrotic syndrome can occur at any age. But it is most common in children between the ages of 18 months and 8 years.
The kidneys have tiny blood vessels called glomeruli that filter waste and extra water from the blood. Healthy kidneys keep the right amount of protein in the blood. Protein helps move water from the tissues into the blood. When the tiny filters are damaged, too much protein slips from the blood into the urine. As a result, fluid builds up in the tissues and causes swelling.
Nephrotic syndrome is often caused by:
Many other things can cause the blood vessel damage that leads to nephrotic syndrome, including:
Sometimes doctors don't know what causes it.
Symptoms may include:
Doctors diagnose nephrotic syndrome using:
A kidney biopsy may be done to find the cause. You may also have other tests to identify what is causing nephrotic syndrome.
Treatment aims to reverse, slow, or prevent further kidney damage. The treatment you need depends on your age and what health problem is causing nephrotic syndrome.
Some people may not need medicine if they are at low risk for problems or are getting better on their own. Others may need medicines that decrease the body's immune system response. These include:
Nephrotic syndrome can lead to other problems that may need treatment, including high blood pressure, blood clots, and high cholesterol or triglycerides. You might need medicines to treat these problems, such as:
Young children who get treatment usually get better and have no lasting problems. Often treatment is not as successful in older children and adults. If your symptoms are severe or they come back, you may need treatment for months to years, or even for the rest of your life.
If treatment doesn't stop the kidney damage, you may develop chronic kidney disease.
If you have nephrotic syndrome, it's important to:
There are also things you can do to reduce your symptoms and prevent other health problems.
Other Works Consulted
Lee BK, Vincenti FG (2013). Diagnosis of medical renal disease. In JW McAninch, TF Lue, eds., Smith and Tanagho's General Urology, 18th ed., pp. 529–539. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lewis JB, Neilson EG (2015). Glomerular diseases. In DL Kasper et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1831–1850. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
Palmer LS, Trachtman H (2012). Renal functional development and diseases in children. In AJ Wein et al., eds., Campbell-Walsh Urology, 10th ed., vol. 4, pp. 3002–3027. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Praga M, et al. (2015). Primary glomerular diseases. In ET Bope, RD Kellerman, eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2015, pp. 929–933. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Watnik S, Dirkx T (2012). Kidney disease. In SJ McPhee, MA Papadakis, eds., 2012 Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 51st ed., pp. 874–911. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: August 12, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineTushar J Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
Current as of: August 12, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Tushar J Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.