What Is Nephrotic Syndrome?
Nephrotic Syndrome (NS) is a disease of the kidneys. It comes in two flavors:
- Minimal Change Nephrotic Syndrome (MCNS), primarily found in children. In MCNS, onset is at an early age - usually 1 1/2 to 5 years old - and traces of the illness disappear at puberty. The actual cause of MCNS is unknown, though boys are more likely to develop it than girls. The basement membrane loses its negative charge, rendering it inert in the filtering of urine.
- Membranous glomerulonephritis, primarily in adults. With membranous gomerulonephritis, the cause is usually related to cancer, drug use, or diabetes. What happens in this case is that the glomerulus membranes - the filters of the kidneys - harden up and become poor filters, thus allowing valuable nutrients to escape into the urine.
So What Does It Do To You?
The nephrotic syndrome is characterized by massive proteinuria, which leads to hypoproteinemia/hypoalbunemia, hyperlipidemia with elevated cholesterols, triglicerides and other lipids, and edema. The edema results not only from the hypoosmolar state caused by the loss of plasma proteins, but also from abnormal salt and water retention.
Renal Pathology Tutorial
You're probably saying, "Say whaaaaat?" So, let's break it down.
As you probably know, the kidneys help balance and regulate the fluids in your body, including urine and blood. They also help balance nutrients within the fluids that need to be transported to various parts of the body.
One such nutrient is protein, which helps build and maintain cellular structures. With NS, kidneys are unable to properly filter proteins to keep within the bloodstream, and they are instead allowed to be mixed with the urine, a phenomenon called proteinuria. Since the protein isn't being delivered to the cells that need them to remain healthy, cell walls begin breaking down, called hypoproteinemia or hypoalbunemia. Needless to say, this isn't a good thing.
As these cell walls break down, the fluid contained with them seeps into the soft tissue of the organs, including the heart, spleen, and skin. A person suffering from NS frequently has lots of swelling (edema), causing occasional misdiagnosis as an allergic reaction.
How Do You Treat NS?
Luckily, Nephrotic Syndrome is a treatable disease. First the patient is given a shot of cortisone, a steroid. If he or she reacts favorably to this treatment, they are usually diagnosed as having MCNS, and the steroid shots continue until the disease has run its course. Unfortunately, many other nephritic diseases have similar symptoms, and the situation may be much more dire than simply NS.
Like all kidney diseases, it is advised that salt be avoided at all costs, and that the patient drink plenty of water to maintain as good a hydrolysis system as possible.