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What are the Common Causes of Kidney Scarring?

By Helena Reimer
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Kidney scarring occurs in the small blood vessels in the kidneys known as glomeruli, and thus it is also known as glomerulosclerosis. The cause of it is often unknown, but in many cases, it is the result of an infection, a disease, excess toxins or drug abuse. Common causes include diabetes, lupus, urinary tract infections and strep throat. Scarring of the kidneys can be slowed down, but it cannot be reversed after the damage has been done. If not treated and taken care of in time, it can lead to kidney failure.

One of the most common causes of kidney scarring is diabetes. The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood, and when excess glucose is present, it causes the kidneys to work harder at keeping the blood clean. This can eventually result in high blood pressure and kidney scars. A person suffering from diabetes can help in preventing scarring by maintaining the blood sugar levels with proper nutrition, exercise and taking the medications as instructed.

Lupus is another common cause of kidney scarring. It is a chronic autoimmune disorder that most commonly causes inflammation in the joints, but it can also affect the kidneys. The disease can cause inflammation in the glomeruli, which then contributes to kidney scars. Other inflammatory diseases that cause inflammation in the kidneys can also cause scarring.

Infectious diseases such as urinary tract infections, skin infections or strep throat can also contribute to kidney scarring. This is because an infection might cause the body to produce excess amounts of antibodies, which then might end up in the glomeruli and cause inflammation. Other causes of kidney scars include chronic liver disease, drug abuse and inflammation or hardening of the arteries in the kidneys. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels also play a role in kidney scarring.

Kidney scars can be detected through a urinalysis. The test is able to detect high levels of protein, or red blood cells, which are common signs of kidney or scarring. A biopsy might also be necessary, because it helps in detecting kidney lesions.

Although there is no cure for kidney scarring, there are remedies and treatments available to prevent further damage to the kidney. A diet that is low in fat, protein and salt can help in slowing down the progression of the scarring. Anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and vitamin D supplements can also be helpful. In severe cases, a kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant can be done in order to save the life of the individual.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By shell4life — On Mar 02, 2012

@OeKc05 – I have PKD, and I can tell you that it does cause scarring. I am enrolled in a clinical trial to test a new drug for PKD, and the researchers frequently check my urine for protein. If they find any, they know that scarring has occurred.

Another thing that PKD causes is high blood pressure. I am currently on medication to keep it down, but just the fact that I have it at all shows that I likely have scarring.

As a participant in the trial, I have to watch my sodium and protein intake. If I buy prepackaged foods, I choose the low sodium kind, and I don't add salt to my food. Also, I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables so that I'm not hungry for meat so much.

By OeKc05 — On Mar 01, 2012

Has anyone here ever heard of polycystic kidney disease? My friend has it, and I just wonder if it can cause scarring of the kidneys.

I know that she has multiple cysts on both kidneys, and they tend to grow over time. She is doing all she can to prevent this, but there is currently no cure for her condition.

I know that her kidney function is below normal level, because the cysts choke out their ability to work normally. This certainly sounds like a condition that would cause scarring.

By lighth0se33 — On Feb 29, 2012

@wavy58 – Since urinary tract infections can cause kidney scarring, there is one easy way to prevent kidney scarring. Drink cranberry juice every day, and you will be far less likely to develop an infection.

I drink an eight-ounce glass of it every day. Sometimes I drink crangrape juice for a better flavor, but I usually mix it with the pure stuff for the strongest effect.

I have even found that drinking extra cranberry juice and taking cranberry supplements can cure a urinary tract infection. If you do this as soon as you start to see symptoms, then you prevent it from scarring your kidneys.

By wavy58 — On Feb 29, 2012

I have often heard that it is very important for people with a urinary tract infection to have it treated promptly, because it could travel to the kidneys. I just pictured the bacteria moving into them. I had no idea that they could become scarred by antibodies!

I'm glad that I have always sought treatment as soon as I suspect I have a urinary tract infection. I would hate to have caused myself irreversible damage by something that could have been avoided.

The treatment for a urinary tract infection is always antibiotics, so this really protects the kidneys from scarring. The sickness doesn't stand a chance against the medication.

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