In the case of kidney inflammation, the kidneys do not function properly. Many people who get kidney inflammation become completely healthy. But it is important that you get treatment if the inflammation does not heal by itself.
Inflammation means that the kidneys cannot purify the blood properly. Renal inflammation is also called glomerulonephritis.
Symptoms of kidney inflammation
Many people have no symptoms of kidney inflammation at all. Therefore, the disease may not be detected until you leave a blood or urine test for some other reason. It may be in connection with a health check or when you leave samples to be examined for any other illness.
The symptoms of kidney inflammation you may notice may be one of these:
- Your lower legs and feet become swollen, so-called edema.
- The eyelids swell during the night and your face may feel swollen when you wake up.
- You may notice that you have gained several pounds in a short amount of time.
- The urine forms a foam when you urinate. You may feel tired for a long time and your appetite is worse.
- Blood in the urine can sometimes be a sign of renal inflammation, but it can also have other causes.
The swelling may have other causes
The swelling is called edema and is because the damaged blood vessels cannot retain the fluid. Instead, the fluid ends up in the tissue, which is labeled as swelling.
Being swollen in the body may be due to many different causes. It may be due to something other than kidney inflammation.
When and where should I seek care?
If you have symptoms of renal inflammation, contact a health care provider.
You may be able to do various examinations if your doctor suspects you have kidney inflammation.
Tell us if you have had other illnesses
You may tell your doctor if you have had any other disease that may affect your kidneys. For example, it could be:
- You have had any other disease in the blood vessels. Or any disease that can affect kidney function.
- You have recently had an infection in your body.
- You have recently had a streptococcal infection, such as throat flux.
You may submit urine samples
You may submit a urine sample. The test shows if there is a red blood cell or protein in the urine.
Sometimes you can get answers right away
The doctor can sometimes read the urine sample directly and you get an answer at once. Then special test strips are dipped in the urine. The test strips are called urine sticks.
Sometimes it can take a few days to get an answer
Sometimes the doctor sends the urine sample to a laboratory. The doctor will do this if a more detailed test is needed. Then it usually takes a few days before you get an answer.
You can have blood tests
You may also have blood tests to show if the kidneys are working properly or if they have been damaged by the inflammation. This can be detected, among other things, by measuring a substance called creatinine.
You can have tissue samples from the kidney
You can get a tissue sample from the kidney, so-called kidney biopsy. You should do this if there is a red blood cell or protein in the urine.
So the sampling goes
You may leave the tissue sample in a hospital. You lie down and get a venous catheter first. It is a thin plastic tube that is inserted into a blood vessel in the arms fold or on top of the hand. This is done so that you can quickly get medicines if needed.
You may lie on your stomach and the doctor will use ultrasound to see the upper part of the kidneys. The doctor will inject an anesthetic into the skin where the sample is to be taken. It can hurt a bit but goes over quickly.
When the skin is anesthetized, the doctor places a thin needle against one kidney and removes a small piece of tissue. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels like a pressure. You then have to rest and rest for a while. The sampling itself takes a few seconds and the entire examination is completed after about 15 to 30 minutes.
You may stay at the hospital
It is common to stay in the hospital for one to two days after sampling. This is because there is a small risk of having a kidney bleed where the test has been taken.
The test response is analyzed
The doctor analyzes the results in the laboratory. The doctor then assesses whether it is a kidney inflammation. You can also see what kind of kidney inflammation you have and which treatment is best for you.
Treatment of kidney inflammation
You will receive treatment to protect the kidneys. The treatment is also used so that the function of the kidneys is not impaired. For example, it could be:
- Treatment that reduces kidney inflammation
- Treatment that protects the kidneys from damage from high blood pressure.
- Treatment that prevents complications that can occur as a result of damage to the kidneys.
You are being treated with medicines
You can get medicines for the treatment of kidney inflammation, for example:
- You can get medicines that lower blood pressure if it leaks protein into the urine. The drug causes it to leak smaller amounts of protein.
- You may sometimes need to take medicines that reduce the risk of blood clots.
- You may sometimes need to take medicines that lower blood fat levels if they are too high.
- You can get treatment with a liquid-based agent if you have kidney inflammation that causes your feet and legs to swell.
- You can be treated with antibiotics if the inflammation is because you have or have recently had an infection in the body caused by bacteria.
- You may be treated with cortisone tablets for certain types of kidney inflammation to prevent the inflammation of the kidney’s blood vessels.
- You may sometimes be treated with cytostatic drugs if cortisone therapy is not enough.
You will be treated with liquid propellant if you have kidney inflammation which causes your feet and legs to swell. The treatment means that you have to urinate more often than usual because the drugs push the fluid out of the body. Sometimes you may be advised to drink less fluid per day than you usually do.
You can measure the effectiveness of the treatment in several ways. For example, it could be:
- You can write down how much you drink and it will be easier to keep track of the fluid intake.
- You can weigh yourself every morning.
You often know yourself if the fluid in the body is decreasing or increasing.
Sometimes, kidney inflammation may be because you have or recently had an infection in your body caused by bacteria. Often, you will be treated with antibiotics if the kidneys are not affected. When the bacterial infection disappears, the inflammation of the kidneys also goes away.
You may be given cortisone tablets for a period of time in certain types of kidney inflammation. This is because the inflammation in the kidneys’ blood vessels themselves should pass. It is the type of inflammation and how intense it is that determines how long you have to take the tablets. It also depends on how much protein there is in the urine. Initially, you may be able to take fairly high doses of cortisone, but they gradually decrease over the course of treatment.
Sometimes cortisone is not enough for kidney inflammation to heal. Then you can get treatment with cytostatic drugs instead.
The disease can heal by itself
You may have kidney inflammation that causes swelling of the lower legs but does not affect kidney function so much. Then the disease can sometimes heal itself within one to two years. You then do not need any treatment.
Some may receive cortisone treatment of kidney inflammation, often in combination with cytostatic drugs. This applies if the kidneys work poorly, or if the healing does not start by itself.
Feel better with exercise and smoking cessation
Overweight and smoking load the kidneys. Therefore, you can get the council to try to lose weight if you are overweight and to quit smoking if you are a smoker. It is also good to move on as much as you can and do.
Side effects of treatment of kidney inflammation
You may have various side effects of the treatment.
Side effects of cortisone
You can get side effects if you take high doses of cortisone. But they go over when the dose is lowered. For example, you may feel anxious, become overactive, have difficulty sleeping, get hungry and eat more than usual. When treated with cortisone for a long time, the skeleton loses calcium. Therefore, you often take tablets containing calcium and vitamin D at the same time to strengthen the skeleton. Other side effects of taking cortisone for a long time maybe that you can easily get fungal infections, high blood sugar, and swelling of the face.
Side effects of cytostatic drugs
You are at an increased risk of getting infections when you are treated with cytostatic drugs. You may also lose your hair and feel unwell. There are temporary side effects that go on after treatment.
Treatment is followed up with regular samples
You are regularly given blood and urine samples when you are treated with cortisone or cytostatic for a prolonged period of time and in high doses. This is for the doctor to see how your body reacts to the treatment and to avoid having too many or serious side effects of the drugs.
Sometimes the damage to the kidneys goes back after a period of treatment and does not come back. But sometimes you may need to be treated several times with different drugs to prevent damage to the kidneys. Sometimes the function of the kidneys can gradually become worse, despite receiving different treatments.
Sometimes dialysis or transplantation is needed
Sometimes it takes a long time for kidney inflammation to be detected, as it often does not produce any symptoms at all. Then the damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys may have been difficult to treat and heal. Then you may need treatment for a long time, sometimes for the rest of your life.
Renal inflammation can sometimes lead to kidney failure. The function of the kidneys then deteriorates. Eventually, you may need to be treated with dialysis or undergo a kidney transplant.
You who want to get pregnant
You should discuss with your doctor if you want to get pregnant and have kidney inflammation that requires treatment. Some drugs used in the treatment of renal inflammation can be harmful to the fetus and during breastfeeding. Therefore, you must avoid taking them for a period of time.
What happens in the body during kidney inflammation?
The kidneys purify the blood
The primary task of the kidneys is to purify the blood. It occurs in small incisions of very small and thin blood vessels called glomeruli. But residues and water that the body does not need to leave the body as urine. The kidneys also create the hormone erythropoietin. It controls how many red blood cells to form. The kidneys also activate vitamin D, which is important for the calcium content of the skeleton. Then salts and other important substances are stored in the body.
You can read more about the kidneys here.
If blood vessels are damaged
When blood vessels are damaged, they cannot purify the blood properly. Then harmful substances can remain in the blood, while important substances leak into the urine.
The kidneys regulate blood pressure
The kidneys are important to keep blood pressure at a good level. When you have kidney inflammation, you may also get high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes even more damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys. Then the kidneys work poorly, which makes the kidney cleansing ability even worse. Read more about high blood pressure.
Different groups of kidney inflammation
Renal inflammation can be divided into three groups. It depends on what symptoms you have and what the different samples show. There may be the following inflammations:
- Renal inflammation where there is high levels of protein in the urine. This is often evident by swelling of your legs and feet.
- Renal inflammation associated with some form of infection in the body, for example in the throat.
- Renal inflammation associated with having a blood vessel disease, or a disease that causes the immune system to attack your own body, such as SLE.
You should understand the information
In order for you to be involved in your care and treatment, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
You also have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter if you have a hearing loss. If you need tools, you should get information about what is available and how to get it.
Children should be able to participate in care. In order to be active and make decisions, it is important that you as an adult and the child understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff.