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What is Bright's Disease?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Bright's disease is an obsolete classification for nephritis, a kidney condition. It was named after Dr. Richard Bright, who described the condition in the early 19th century. A lack of understanding of how the kidneys work at the time meant that the conditions now known as chronic and acute nephritis were both considered Bright's disease. Though this condition is usually treatable, it can cause long-term, serious complications.


Both types of nephritis are caused by inflammation of part of the kidneys, usually either the glomeruli or the spaces in between the renal tubules. The first is the part of the kidneys that filter blood, and the second are the areas in between the parts of the kidneys that collect the fluid after it's filtered by the glomeruli. The inflammation can be caused by many different conditions, including lupus, a urinary tract infection that travels up to the kidneys, bacterial infections, and allergies to certain medications. Infectious diseases like pneumonia, measles, mononucleosis, and hepatitis, can also cause Bright's disease, as can having too little potassium or too much calcium in the blood. Additionally, using Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) in high dosages over a long period of time can cause kidney inflammation.


Those symptoms most commonly associated with Bright's disease are intense pain on either or both sides of the lower back along with a fever and nausea. Cloudy, dark, or bloody urine containing blood plasma proteins is also a hallmark sign of kidney problems. In those with kidney failure caused by high blood pressure, swollen extremities caused by the retention of fluids is also common. If the kidneys fail and cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs or if a cancer in the kidneys spreads to the lungs, then a person may have trouble breathing.

Historical and Modern Treatments

Historically, Bright's disease was treated with diuretics and laxatives, as well as bloodletting in extreme cases. In modern times, kidney inflammation is treated according to the underlying cause. For instance, if a person has nephritis from NSAID overuse, then stopping the use of NSAIDs can usually significantly reduce inflammation. The restriction of salt, protein, and fluids can also usually help with this condition, particularly in those with high blood pressure. If there's an underlying infection, like a urinary tract infection or pneumonia, then treating that condition with antibiotics or antivirals can also help. In severe cases, dialysis may be needed.


Bright's disease has a pretty good prognosis when treated promptly, but some people do develop complications. Perhaps the most common complication is nephritic syndrome, in which proteins and red blood cells leak into the urine through holes in certain cells in the glomeruli. If the kidneys don't function correctly for a long time, then a person can also develop metabolic acidosis, in which the body has too much acid, since the kidneys don't remove it properly. Though it's rare, some people do go into full blown kidney failure or develop end-stage kidney disease, which means they have to go on dialysis permanently or get a new kidney.

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.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon1002280 — On Oct 14, 2019

I had Bright's disease as a child. I was about 9 years old at the time of diagnosis. My grandmother's sister had it in the 1930's and passed away as a result of the disease. I remained at home in bed for almost 2 months and underwent constant antibiotic therapy. I also developed liver symptoms as I remember being very jaundiced. It resolved well and I have been healthy since.

By anon994407 — On Feb 07, 2016

Help. Could someone out there with personal knowledge about Brights please me by answering some questions? My mother also had Bright's. She had two kidney transplants with massive complications. Her first transplant was done at the University of Washington by and the second at Swedish, I think. She spent a lot of time in the Seattle Kidney Center. She was also one of the first in Washington to have home dialysis, about 1976 I think.

My mother passed away 15 years ago. A blood clot broke loose during surgery and went to I'm 48 and just two months ago, my first biological child was born. She is healthy, happy and beautiful. She also looks very much like my mother!

I don't let anyone know how worried for my girl I am. I have so many questions about my mother. What Bright's did to my mother was horrible! Could I have passed it to my daughter? I think I remember my mother explaining when I was very young that her kidneys had quit growing in her early teens so by her early 20s she was in full renal shut down. Does that make any sense? Is my memory wrong? I have many questions. Please help.

By anon989135 — On Feb 21, 2015

I am 82 years of age. In the fifth grade, I woke up one morning and was swollen to the point I could hardly see. The doctor diagnosed Bright's Disease. He told my parents to give me one teaspoon of epson's salts each morning for six weeks. I guess that is what saved me and why I am 82 years of age.

By anon347253 — On Sep 05, 2013

My father passed away from this disease at the age of 23. I was 18 months old at the time. He got to see my first steps and then he was gone. Yes, I have had many kidney problems and a lot of back pain, but I'm here and enjoying life. Positive attitude and no alcohol! Ever!

By anon344354 — On Aug 08, 2013

@Joan: I was 2 when I got scarlet fever, and had a high temperature. I then got Bright's disease after this.

I have lived with bad kidneys for my whole entire life. I've had hundreds of kidney stones over a 30-year span. I have been seeing kidney specialists for the last 25 years. I am now in the third stage of CKD.

I have read many of these posts and I know just by reading them that there are a lot of people right here who really need to see a doctor and soon. My father's aunt had this problem, along with Diabetes. She died at the age of 53. I am now 58 and hope I will have more time before I go. I really am blown up all over and I almost want to go on dialysis.

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless all of you and help you in your times of need.

By anon342748 — On Jul 23, 2013

Just today I found out that my maternal grandmother's youngest brother died of Bright's disease at 1 year and 10 months of age. I'd never heard of it under that name until now.

By anon314888 — On Jan 20, 2013

I had Bright's when I was a kid, too. I was in the hospital for 15 day and three needles a day -- not fun. I went home Christmas Eve. Maybe this is why I am having migraines all the time. I have them constantly, along with lower back pain.

By Tab — On Oct 11, 2012

Once you have Bright's, you always have it. It will never go away. It causes your back and kidneys to hurt like hell, you will have kidney stones, blood in your urine and it can make you have stomach problems and migraines. Your best bet it to read all you can about it.

By Tab — On Oct 11, 2012

I was born with Bright's. At that time (1965) I don't believe they knew a lot about it. I was in my 20s before the memories of the horrible hospital stay came back to me.

My parents were abusive drunks and when I asked them when I was in my 20's what was wrong with me, they couldn't tell me. Thank god for my grandmother. She told me the name of it and some of the stuff I went through, which were the things I remembered.

I had no problems until I started having kidney stones left and right. I started reading up on Bright's and found that it's a common thing. I also have found that my whole life, anytime I have had blood work, my kidney functions were always off, but no doctor said a word about it.

For all with Bright's, yes it is a death sentence. There is no cure. A transplant or dialysis are the only ways to help to prolong life. I'm being straightforward with you all be because I'm 46, a mother and grandmother and will never live to see my grandchildren grow up and have children of their own.

So if you have Bright's or think you might, go to the doctor make them read about it and do whatever it takes to have more time with your loved ones. And I hope I'll still be here in six months but don't believe so. So, if you believe in God please say a prayer for me. I'll keep posting until I can't anymore. Good luck and may God bless you all.

By anon279705 — On Jul 13, 2012

I have edema and high blood pressure. My kidneys produce a lot of excess protein. I am a 50 year old male. Should I be worried?

By sparkie1999 — On Feb 22, 2012

My maternal grandfather died of Bright's disease 53 years ago in his early 60s. According to my mother, who is now 97, little was known at that time about Bright's. At times I wake with a severe low back pain when taking in a breath. Any thoughts on this possibly being associated with Bright's?

By anon242991 — On Jan 25, 2012

My father had bright's disease and now he is cured. He was cured from the help of a homeopathic doctor, Dr. Bains, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

By anon168029 — On Apr 15, 2011

In 1948 at the age of 3, I contracted Bright's disease. Over the next four years, during 28 admissions to Children's Hospital in DC, I was given over 1000 blood transfusions of principally serum albumin, sort of a dialysis. At the age of seven, the episodes stopped and I've been extremely healthy for the last 65 years.

By anon147414 — On Jan 29, 2011

My dad had Bright's disease as a child, around 1925. What treatments would have been used at that time?

By kelly67 — On Dec 22, 2010

Thanks, amypollick. I'm going to find out who his doctor is and talk to him, but the thing is he had a full physical six months before this, even to check for blockages and everything.

I just don't understand it! Just a little advice to everyone out there: have your parents make a will, especially if they're married to a different person.

Me and my brother get nothing because of his wife. She didn't want a will done and promised him she would do what he wanted done for us! That was a lie and she has the nerve to ask us if we were coming over there for Christmas.

That witch, i would say something else but can't on here.

By amypollick — On Dec 21, 2010

@kelley67: As I read the cause of death, your father died from hardening of the arteries in his heart. The bright's disease probably didn't help the situation, but in all likelihood, didn't cause it, either. Speak to his doctor about the cause of his death. The doctor can probably answer your questions. My condolences on the loss of your dad. I know it's hard.

By kelly67 — On Dec 21, 2010

my father had brights disease, and yes it is hereditary too! My dad just died four weeks ago and on death certificate it said hypertensive and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Is this related to the bright's disease? please, I need to know.

By anon119159 — On Oct 16, 2010

my birth mother was treated for bright's disease just before or right after I was conceived. Is this something that is hereditary? I do have foamy urine at times and lower back pain a lot. Usually it goes away in a couple days so I never go to the doctor for it.

By anon111456 — On Sep 16, 2010

I was born with the Bright's Disease and now I'm 18 years old. I sit and read those comments and think about my life. I'm having to go to a lot of doctors. I have a lot of pain.

The person who i inherited it from was my aunt and she passed away a few months ago. But i don't blame her. i love her with all my heart. I'm scared of what might happen to me.

I have bloody and foamy urine, i hurt a lot in my lower back, and i get a lot of urinary and bladder infections. But always have faith though. But there is one thing i do want to know. Could i die from the Brights Disease?

By apple58tree — On Sep 04, 2010

my father got bright's disease in 1952 at age 15 and then relapsed in 1962, along with my sister who was seven years old. She had blood transfusions and both were very sick.

It is hereditary, but my dad was the only one of 18 children in his family to get it. Both were thin and had iron problems but no other problems. Alcohol restrictions are highly recommended, as with any kidney problem.

My father passed away in 2001, very thin but no kidney problems. As for my sister, she so far has no problems. Good eating habits, exercise and no alcohol may be of help.

By channu — On Aug 19, 2010

For kidney problems there are good medicines in the Siddha Medical System, the oldest medicinal system of the world. With change in food habits and few herbal medicines the diseases can be controlled. I have cured even SLE satisfactorily.

By anon104617 — On Aug 17, 2010

As I sit here and read other comments, tears are streaming down my face. My sister passed away in 1970. The doctor diagnosed her as having Bright's Disease.

We are African-American and she was 14 at the time of her death. I was 15. Our family was devastated, as we never knew that the disease would cause her death. The doctor did not tell us.

I remember her crying out in pain in the middle of the night. I remember my mother doing everything within her power by following the doctor's orders, even putting my sister on a special diet of foods we never heard of. My sister's illness began in September 1970 and by December 1970 she was gone. I'm glad that there is more information regarding treatment.

The statement in the text above says patients who didn't respond years ago were victims of a lack of knowledge. Sadly, this fits the case of my sister.

By anon100388 — On Jul 29, 2010

In 1933, when I was about six months old, I had contracted measles, and they apparently settled in my kidneys. The family doctor told my parents that it was Bright's Disease, and that I wouldn't live until the next morning.

My Grandfather was brought to my crib-side, and spent the entire night reading passages from the bible that he knew would help my recovery. In the morning, my fever had broken and in a few days I had completely recovered from both the measles and the kidney problem. The doctor was mystified. I have never had another problem with the kidneys.

By anon96604 — On Jul 16, 2010

When I was seven I was diagnosed with Bright's disease. I was hospitalized and put on antibiotics and recovered with no further problems. The doctor, however, told my mother that I would need to take one penicillin tablet a day for the rest of my life, which I did until I was about 20.

After a blood test, my doctor told me that I no longer needed to take the penicillin so I stopped. I am now 52 and in excellent health and have never had problems with my kidneys since.

By anon95704 — On Jul 13, 2010

I was told I had brights disease as a child. can this come back as an adult? If so, what are the symptoms?

By anon92316 — On Jun 27, 2010

I was sent to a urologist when my primary saw microscopic blood in my urine. They did a bunch of tests and said I was fine. Recently I have had lower back pain I cannot associate with anything. Could the microscopic blood in the urine and the back paid be related?

By anon73555 — On Mar 28, 2010

I was diagnosed with alpers disease when i was 29, in 2009.

i have had a kidney disease since 1992 but never knew the name of it until last year after many, many doctors and lots of tests.

My father was on dialysis for twenty five years until his passing last year. he was diagnosed with hypertension nephritis when he was twenty five. He had two kidney transplants, including biopass they said he was the longest dialysis patient in washington.

I had a son in 1998 then a daughter. When my son was three he was eating cereal and i looked over at him and his left side of his face was paralyzed. i panicked and immediately thought he has had a stroke from stress. we lived in a shelter for battered women. I called 911 and the EMTs came and after doctors and nurses ran back and forth they finally told me what they had found -- kidney disease -- and they thought is was going to be fine, just needs a biopsy. Six months later brights disease was confirmed and then it was said my disease is something that doesn't come with great concern.

I'm the carrier and i pass it to the males and they will have the most problems with the kidney disorder. I now am being told that alport's disease is just protein and blood in the urine in high amounts but how do they know without a biopsy? They don't and now they have found a cyst on my right kidney and that's not good enough for a biopsy. It's really because I'm on medicaid.

By anon71155 — On Mar 17, 2010

Anyone who is concerned about Bright's disease needs to see a nephrologist. They are a group of physicians specializing in disorders of the kidneys. These conditions can usually be treated if they are caught early enough. R. Boorgu MD

By anon67663 — On Feb 25, 2010

I am so worried. My Dad's mother died of Bright's Disease, and she warned my mother to watch out with her kids, as it is hereditary.

I have had lower back pain for a few years now, and am in my twenties. I have had some urinary issues (leaking, urgency, frequent bathroom trips - especially at night, foul smelling and discolored urine). Now it's bad. I have had white particles and stringy things in my urine, a horrible odor, having to wear a pad due to leaking.

I went to the doc, submitted a urine sample, and the sample was reddish brown with several "blood clots" in it! I'm awaiting test results, the doc said it was very serious, and i'm terrified!

By anon61948 — On Jan 23, 2010

I have a friend with bright's disease. there were five boys in his family and four had bright's. he is doing very good. he has had two kidney transplants and he and his wife are expecting their first child. It turned out to be twins so there is a brighter side. stay positive.

By anon47849 — On Oct 07, 2009

Lately I have had blood in my urine, not that I could see it, but the doctor has. I went to a urologist. They could not find anything wrong and the doctot says some people just have blood in their urine. My brother had bright's disease a a early age. He died four years ago with kidney cancer. I am very concerned. Can anyone give me good advice on what to do?

By alton52 — On Oct 06, 2009

anon5145 did you have a high fever with your brights disease?

By alton52 — On Oct 06, 2009

I was told i have retinitis pigmentosa in both eyes,and the veterans or (VA)is trying to take my disability rating of 10 percent away from me. Well here is my problem. At the age of 14 years old i had bright's disease and i told them that i had a high fever with this disease and that's why my eyes looks like i have R.P. a salt and pepper looks like RP.

By anon47690 — On Oct 06, 2009

im trying to connect brights disease and my high fever i had this disease with a disease that i have or the doctors thought i had in the army,in which i was discharged for retinitis pigmentosa

By anon43100 — On Aug 25, 2009

My great grandfather died of brights disease. I have fibromyalgia, copd, heart disease and hydradenitis. Is any of these related to brights? at first they thought I had lupus.

By anon39068 — On Jul 30, 2009

While undergoing a colonoscopy i asked the doctor to check check my throat for blockage. He said i had brights disease. I always did have blood in my urine since the 1960's i have a lot of what i call acid reflux that wets the pillow cases and sheets. the endoscopy showed what was like diamonds lining the esophagus. I am an atomic veteran from the early 1950's,at the test site in Nevada. i have been medically retired from the Marines since the mid-70's, after a triple heart by-pass operation. many more operations in my lifetime because of this. my red blood cells have been damaged and of course repeat as regenerated with more monocytes. Sometimes I wonder why I am still alive. after the second triple cabbagex3 20 years after the first one. i thought that was the time i would have it done, over with and no more pains.

By currier — On Jun 24, 2009

Is this genetic?

By countrynurse — On Jun 12, 2009

I just found out that my great-grandfather on the maternal side of my Dad (Norwegian) was

dx with Bright's disease. I have a genetic

defect called Gitelman's syndrome. I believe my ancestor had Gitelman's. I think we found

the first instance of this defect in our family. He died in 1910.

By anon31438 — On May 05, 2009

How do you get Bright's disease?

By anon19482 — On Oct 13, 2008

Is Bright's commonly passed to children of sufferers, or is it non-genetic?

By anon19395 — On Oct 11, 2008

is brights disease also called new brights? are nose bleeds common of this disease? I too had it as a child, can it reoccur as an adult? my teeth turned black and i almost lost them as a child is this also a symptom or perhaps i was misdiagnosed.

By anon12536 — On May 08, 2008

I just started to get pain in my lower back but i have always had bloody urine. Why is it that I only sometimes suffer from pain?

By anon12320 — On May 04, 2008

I have a three year old who has extremely poor eye sight and Strabismus, asthma and ADHD ODD with no sense of fear. She always shows blood in her urine. Just found out my father had bright's disease 55 years ago and has ongoing kidney problems..Who should I consult?

By anon11563 — On Apr 18, 2008

do minors get it?

By anon9187 — On Mar 01, 2008

I also had Bright's disease when I was 3. Now at almost 50, I have had arthritis for many years, multiple bone spurs in the feet and on the spine. My eyesight was also compromised and it is very poor even with corrective lenses. I had to fight off many kidney infections, especially throughout my teens and 20's. My kidneys are still vulnerable and I treat them cautiously avoiding kidney or bladder infections or treating them at the first sign.

By anon6762 — On Jan 08, 2008

I did too and I sometimes still get pain in my lower back and wonder if this has anything to do with it.

By anon5145 — On Nov 14, 2007

i had brights disease as a child, i want to know as an adult what problems i may have?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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