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What is Nephritis?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Nephritis refers to inflammation of one or both kidneys. It can be caused by infection, but is most commonly caused by autoimmune disorders that affect the major organs. For example, those with lupus are at a much higher risk for developing nephritis. In rare cases, this condition can be genetically inherited, though it may not present in childhood.

This condition can be very serious, and in some cases, is even deadly. It is associated with a condition called proteinuria, in which kidneys excrete protein from the body into the urine. When this happens, several serious side effects can occur, including blood clots which can lead to a stroke.

Nephritis causes additional problems like water retention, as the kidneys cannot function properly to rid the body of water. Water retention or edema, can further cause swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, and hands. This secondary symptom is usually treated with diuretics like Lasix®, generic name furosemide, which can help to reduce edema and pain associated with swelling.

Primarily, nephritis tends to be treated with antibiotics and also occasionally with steroids, particularly in those cases thought to be caused by lupus. This condition is incurable when associated with lupus, but it can go into remission. Roughly half the cases associated with lupus, and with the inherited form, go into remission.

When nephritis is caused by infection, it is treated aggressively with antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment may have to be intravenous for several weeks if the infection has been present for a long time, and if the infection is particularly severe. This tends to mean hospitalization.

Nephritis is diagnosed by evaluating a patient’s history and possible genetic precursors for the condition. When these do not exist, recent history of strep throat or bladder infection can indicate infectious nephritis. Those who have lupus are usually told they are predisposed to this condition and are urged to report signs of swelling in the extremities to their doctors as soon as possible. Additionally pain in the kidneys, on either side of the lower back, may indicate development of nephritis.

Physicians may also order lab tests, since urine analysis can be a significant help in diagnosing excess protein in the urine stream, as well as the presence of infection. Blood tests may also help diagnose this condition. Physical exam can reveal kidneys that are swollen, and in some cases, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to evaluate amount of swelling.

Infectious nephritis is easier to prevent if a patient with strep throat or bladder infection is diagnosed early and adheres to taking the appropriate antibiotics. One can reduce contracting it from urinary tract or bladder infections with a few simple behavioral changes. These include maintaining good hygiene when using the bathroom, like wiping front to back, drinking plenty of fluids, and urinating every couple of hours to clear the bladder.

Genetic and lupus induced nephritis are not preventable. However, those with lupus are more predisposed to develop the infectious type as well, and can observe the above precautions to help reduce risk.

TheHealthBoard 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 , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard 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 anon292263 — On Sep 19, 2012

I had nephritis when I was seventeen and I thought it was over. I now am 24 and the symptoms are recurring. My health is worse than before. What do I do?

By anon222995 — On Oct 17, 2011

Can nephritis cause a recurrence of colon cancer?

By sushilg29 — On Sep 19, 2011

what are the biochemical investigations done in nephritic syndrome?

By anon215799 — On Sep 19, 2011

what are the biochemical investigations to rule out the nephritic syndrome? and what is the interpretation of it?

By anon188219 — On Jun 20, 2011

I was diagnosed with nephritis syndrome when I was two years old. Fortunately, my pediatrician referred my family to Duke Hospital. I battled the disease from the time I was two years old until I was 11 years old. I would go into remission for awhile -- sometimes a year or so -- then it would re-emerge. When the flare-up would occur, I would be put on large doses of prednisone and then tapered off. This occurred throughout those nine years. Then the prednisone 'quit' working and I was put on an oral chemotherapy drug. I was told that if it did not reoccur within eight years after taking the drug, they would consider me cured. I am now 40 years old and am without another episode.

However, I never reached my average height that I was suppose to reach, have never been able to conceive a child, and have intention tremors in my hands. I am wondering if there will be any later effects from these medications I took. I have a constant battle with weight and generalized body pain, mainly in my spine.

By anon181238 — On May 29, 2011

I had nephritis when I was 10 years old, some 50 years ago. I spent three months in Fairfield Hospital. It took ages for a diagnosis, during which time I almost died. The main symptom I had was severe tiredness. I am now 60 and facing tests for this disease again.

By anon171687 — On May 01, 2011

I was diagnosed about three years ago with nephritis. I didn't know that I was sick with the flu and pneumonia, never should any signs of a cold-- no nothing!!

I had a little sexual excitement that caused me to have a asthma attack and I don't have asthma! I went to the hospital because I couldn't breathe and that's when they told me that I had the flu and pneumonia and I had to be hospitalized for a few days.

Then, after a follow up visit with my doctor, I was told that I was leaking protein in my urine and that I might have holes in my kidneys and referred to see a nephrologist where I was then diagnosed with the nephritis. I am now on medications and my kidneys are healing good. I am a 36 year old woman and you would never know that I have this if I didn't tell you. So if you show signs of a common cold or whatever go to the doctors immediately, I wished that I had showed signs.

By anon169481 — On Apr 21, 2011

I am currently in the hospital with nephritis. Man, what an ordeal. Been here almost a week, and it has been miserable. I had no signs of anything having to do with auto. One day I got sleepy, got a bad fever and a lot of back and stomach pain. On both sides. I suggest if you even think you have a kidney pain to see a doctor asap.

I waited three days and it has literally been the worst week of my life. They took blood cultures and grew them. They were shooting in the dark with the mess until the cultures came back, which took almost four days. So, I was a pincushion. They gave me morphine, which did nothing but give me a migraine for two days. Then they gave me toradol, which worked better. Sleeping has been rough. Hopefully be home soon.

By anon161414 — On Mar 19, 2011

at age 15, i had nephritis. It came suddenly and started with a sore throat. The sore throat went away and i started feeling much better but i started urinating brown. The GP gave me a liquid general antibiotic which made me vomit. The symptoms were strongest at night and early morning but dissipated slightly during the day.

As the weeks went on, i also developed double pneumonia. I was then hospitalized. With the nephritis and the pneumonia, I didn't pass water and became very water logged. When i did urinate, there was a lot of blood and my urine was then very red.

My blood pressure was so high, it had to be brought down with daily injections. In the mornings for about five days, I received two injections in my thighs (one in each thigh). These drugs made me almost comatose and i lost all appetite. I was required to lie perfectly flat, without even being allowed to lift my head to drink. I was not allowed any salt. I spent about three weeks in the hospital. I had dropped about 35 pounds to about 90 pounds. I'm now 50 with no recurrences.

By anon145692 — On Jan 24, 2011

Is nephritis hereditary? My father had it and my grandfather years ago and as a result my father is now on dialysis and needs a kidney transplant. My Uncle, his direct brother has had his blood tested to see if he is compatible but he is not.

This leaves only my brother and I. My concern is, both I and my brother have children and partners to consider in our decision and if nephritis is hereditary what's to say that in the future we may face the same situation my father faces now? I really don't know what to do. Donate to please my family or not and probably be disowned? Can anyone help?

By anon141927 — On Jan 11, 2011

Nephritis can be caused by strep throat, however if someone has an autoimmune disorder, a flu or cold could be the cause of the outbreak. Nephritis can be both chronic and acute depending on the person.

I personally have found my outbreaks to occur after another illness such as the flu or a sore throat. For me, it begins with abdominal cramps and soreness in the lower back/sides. As well, I typically feel very exhausted. The easiest tell tale sign is always blood in the urine, which typically comes out as a brownish color.

After a urinaysis is completed and blood work the patient's protein and hemoglobin count in the urine will indicate the possibility of nephritis as well as the creatine levels. From there the doctor will refer you to a renal clinic to have a nephrologist look at you. This will result in some more tests and a kidney biopsy. Depending on your severity, medication, steroids, or treatment is prescribed.

By anon138557 — On Jan 01, 2011

I was diagnosed with nephritis in both kidneys in 1973 and my GP sent me to a renal specialist.

The specialist did a biopsy and put me on medication. I am now 72 years old and my kidneys are 40 percent good.

By anon122582 — On Oct 28, 2010

I had nephritis when i was 12. That was 24 years ago. I had headache in back of my head several days before the other symptoms. I also had fever, less frequent urination and inflammation of face (especially eyelids) and high pressure triggered a doctors visit.

Thankfully my parents took me on time to family doctor(who was a well experienced Ayurvedic), who recommended an immediate visit to a specialist. Then I was treated for two weeks in hospital with antibiotics. Conditions got worse at one point and I was admitted to ICU.

Thankfully it was treated with several doses of penicillin and food (i think i avoided salt only). I had monthly penicillin doses for three months and avoided heavy activities for almost six months.

Since then I had no problems at all. today after 24 years i am feeling healthy. A bit overweight, but regularly exercising and keeping weight under control.

By anon113447 — On Sep 24, 2010

I had nephritis in 1952 when I was six years old. There wasn't much they could do for you then except treat the symptoms. Most people didn't survive it back then. But by the grace of God and some great doctors I did. I have not had any problems with my kidneys since.

In the last few years I have had a urinalysis done approximately every six months and no problems have been found. Lots more people survive it today because of the antibiotics that are available. I was told to never ignore a sore throat and get it treated right away. I didn't mean to ramble on but I hope this helps someone.

By anon108896 — On Sep 04, 2010

my father had bright's disease in 1952 at age 15 and my sister had it at age seven in 1962. My father relapsed that same year. Neither one had any problems, but alcohol is highly not recommended. Both were very thin. I do not know if this is related to bright's disease, but like you, they almost died when diagnosed.

By anon94328 — On Jul 08, 2010

I just got told I had Nephritis today. Sounds horrible.

By anon78266 — On Apr 17, 2010

I had this at age 14 but was called Bright's disease back then. I was deathly ill and put into the hospital because of water retention and having the kidneys that stopped functioning therefore blowing up like a balloon. After a couple of months I was well again and am now celebrating my 59th birthday.

By anon67356 — On Feb 24, 2010

our daughter has high blood pressure at an early age. She has been medicated for it but they can't seem to regulate it.

Her doctor told her that it might be caused by something else and mentioned the kidneys. Our family has a history of nephritis and has died from this. Is it possible that this is what she has? Should she see a specialist?

By anon67354 — On Feb 24, 2010

can high blood pressure be a result of nephritis?

By anon67154 — On Feb 23, 2010

strep throat causes nephritis i had it

By anon61406 — On Jan 19, 2010

I had nephritis 37 years ago at age 17 as a result of strep throat/ mononucleosis. I was very sick and close to comatose for a few weeks. Rigorous use of antibiotics brought me around.

I have never experienced any physical concerns since then -- no adverse effects (other than reduced memory).

I do try to make sure that when anyone contracts mono, that they make sure they take proper care/rest at the beginning, so it doesn't get out of control on them.

By anon60208 — On Jan 12, 2010

nephritis is bad. i had it and almost kicked the bucket.

By anon59327 — On Jan 07, 2010

I had Nephritis 43 years ago at age 7. There wasn't a lot they could due back then. I was in a coma for three weeks and I was supposed to die but I bounced back and other than kidney stones in my 40's, I've had no problems.

By anon49239 — On Oct 19, 2009

put more about the clinical signs.

By anon40933 — On Aug 11, 2009

I'm also curious about other possible causes of this -- anyone documented related issues with Lyme disease (another spirochete)? I'm wondering if other causes might be misdiagnosed, and this overlooked.

By anon36867 — On Jul 15, 2009

Does anyone know what long term affect on the

kidney's result of having nephritis when young?

By anon13135 — On May 20, 2008

What causes Nephritis?

What are the precautions for Nephritis?

By anon11050 — On Apr 07, 2008

Has anyone seen nephritis recently caused by influenza?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia...
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