Nephritis is inflammation of the kidneys, a pair of bean-shaped, fist-sized organs found under the ribs on the both sides of the spine. To help you better understand kidney problems like nephritis, we will examine the different types of nephritis, symptoms of nephritis, nephritis causes, and natural nephritis treatment and prevention methods.
Both kidneys contain millions of nephrons where blood filtration takes place. Within the nephron, a two-step cleaning process that separates what the body needs from what it can eliminate occurs.
A filter known as the glomerulus will catch protein and blood cells while sending waste and water to a second filter called a tubule.
Nephritis therefore describes a condition where there is inflammation of the tubule and nearby tissue, which can prompt kidney damage.
As a result, the kidneys fail to work properly and waste accumulates, causing serious health effects with long-term implications leading to kidney failure.
Types of Nephritis
There are various types of nephritis. Acute nephritis happens when there is sudden inflammation of the kidneys.
Well-functioning kidneys process 200 quarts of blood daily while removing two quarts of excess water and waste products. The inflammatory condition, once called Bright’s disease, can lead to kidney failure when left untreated.
The different types of acute nephritis include interstitial nephritis, pyelonephritis, and glomerulonephritis. Other types of nephritis include lupus nephritis, IgA nephropathy, and Alport syndrome.
Let’s look at the different types of nephritis in greater detail.
1. Interstitial Nephritis
Interstitial nephritis is characterized by swelling between the tubules and kidneys. The kidney tubules reabsorb water and important substances from kidney filtration, and substances are secreted through urination.
Interstitial nephritis can be acute or chronic in nature. Acute interstitial nephritis is typically the result of an allergic reaction. Over 100 different medications cause interstitial nephritis, such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and proton pump inhibitors.
Non-allergic interstitial nephritis causes include high calcium levels, low potassium levels, and autoimmune disorders.
Acute pyelonephritis is a severe and sudden kidney infection. Consequently, the kidneys will swell, which may lead to permanent damage. Frequent occurrences are known as chronic pyelonephritis.
The infection will begin in the lower urinary tract in the form of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Bacteria enter the body through the urethra and spread to the bladder. At that point, bacteria will travel from the ureters to the kidneys.
Glomerulonephritis refers to a range of kidney conditions that cause inflammation in the very small blood vessels in the kidneys, which are called glomeruli.
It is also called glomerular disease or glomerular nephritis. When the glomeruli become damaged, the kidney can no longer efficiently remove excess fluids and waste.
4. Lupus Nephritis
Lupus nephritis is inflammation of kidneys caused by the autoimmune disease known as systemic lupus erythematous (SLE)—also called lupus. This is where the body’s immune system targets its own tissues.
5. IgA Nephropathy (Berger’s Disease)
IgA (immunoglobulin A) nephropathy is also called Berger’s disease. The kidney disease occurs when the antibody IgA lodges within the kidneys.
Over time, this leads to local inflammation, which interferes in the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood. It is a progressive disease that may lead to end-stage kidney failure.
6. Alport Syndrome
Alport syndrome is an inherited disease caused by genetic mutations to the protein collagen. It can lead to kidney failure, hearing problems, and vision issues.
It will often run in families, and the severity is greater in men. Common symptoms include high blood pressure, protein in the urine, blood in the urine, and swelling in the ankle, legs, feet, and around the eyes.
The genetic types of Alport syndrome include X-linked Alport syndrome (XLAS), autosomal recessive Alport syndrome (ARAS), and autosomal dominant Alport syndrome (ADAS).
Symptoms of Nephritis
What are the key symptoms of nephritis? Your symptoms will vary depending on the type of nephritis.
The most common symptoms of nephritis will include:
- cloudy urine
- pelvic pain
- pain or burning from urination
- frequent urination
- pain in the abdomen or kidney area
- high blood pressure
- mental confusion
- water retention
- weight gain
- chills or shaking
- moist skin
- reduced urination
Nephritis symptoms are often not severe in the early stages of the condition.
To protect the kidneys against permanent damage, be sure to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of nephritis such as blood or pus in the urine, foamy urine, changes in urine color, changes in urinating habits, and swelling in the feet, hands, ankles, and face.
Causes and Risk Factors of Nephritis
The causes of nephritis will depend on the type of nephritis. In certain cases, the cause may not be entirely clear.
Infections like hepatitis B or C and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can cause nephritis. And as many as 60% of lupus patients also develop nephritis. Medications that can cause nephritis include NSAIDs, antibiotics, and diuretics.
The most important risk factors of kidney disease include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, a family history of kidney disease, and being 60 years of age or older.
Populations most likely to develop kidney problems include Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders.
Let’s take a look at the key causes behind some of the various types of nephritis:
1. Interstitial nephritis
Some of the interstitial nephritis causes include low potassium and taking medications long term, such as antibiotics.
Common bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) often cause the infection, which can also spread to the kidneys.
The main cause is unknown; however, some conditions encourage the infection, such as a history of cancer, immune system problems, and an abscess that travels to the kidneys through the blood.
4. Lupus nephritis
This form is often caused by systemic lupus erythematous.
5. IgA nephropathy
Conditions associated with the development of IgA nephropathy include liver diseases, celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and bacterial and HIV infections.
6. Alport syndrome
This is considered an inherited disease caused by a genetic mutation to collagen.
How is nephritis diagnosed? Laboratory tests can help rule out the presence of nephritis.
Nephritis may be detected by routine urine tests, including urinalysis, which tests for bacteria, blood, and white blood cells. A doctor may also order blood tests like creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN).
A doctor will also perform a physical exam and take a medical history. An imaging scan like a renal ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT) scan can show inflammation or blockage of the urinary tract or kidneys.
A dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) test may also be given when a doctor suspects scarring due to pyelonephritis.
It is a technique that tracks an injection of radioactive material in the vein of an arm. The material then travels to the kidneys and the radioactive material passes through the kidneys to show scarred or infected areas.
When protein is found in the urine, it can indicate that the kidneys are improperly working.
A renal biopsy is thought to be the best way to check for nephritis. Kidney biopsies involve testing a tiny tissue sample from the kidney with a special needle under a microscope.
Doctors perform the procedure if a person isn’t responding well to treatments.
Other exams and tests that help your doctor diagnosis nephritis include:
- Genetic test: This test can help detrmine the genetic type of nephritis.
- Vision test: Vision tests can help confirm if your vision has been affected by nephritis.
- Hearing test: Hearing tests also help see if nephritis has affected your hearing.
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR): This type of blood test shows how well your kidneys filter waste from the body.
Nephritis Treatment, Prevention, and Home Remedies
The treatment of nephritis will depend on the type of nephritis and whether the disease is acute, chronic, or linked to another disease like lupus.
Acute nephritis sometimes goes away without treatment. When necessary, nephritis treatment will remove excess fluids and dangerous proteins.
A strong immune system is essential to help combat nephritis infections before they have a chance to affect the body.
The treatment for chronic nephritis also involves monitoring blood pressure and regular check-ups on the kidneys. Doctors may also prescribe medications in the treatment of nephritis.
However, when a medication you’re taking is causing kidney problems, your doctor may prescribe a different medication.
The following are the different ways you can treat nephritis:
The drug treatment often prescribed for kidney infections like nephritis is antibiotics. However, if your infection is serious, you may require intravenous (IV) antibiotics within the hospital setting.
IV antibiotics often work faster than antibiotics in pill form. Doctors may also prescribe corticosteroids for inflammation of the kidneys.
When kidney infection is significantly impaired due to infection, dialysis may be required. This is where a special machine acts like an artificial kidney.
However, dialysis may only be a temporary solution, and if your kidney has experienced too much damage, you may permanently require dialysis.
3. Rest and Hydration
For people with acute nephritis, the body needs energy and time to heal. Your doctor will likely recommend bed rest for your recovery.
You may also be advised to increase your fluid intake to prevent dehydration, while keeping the kidneys filtering to release waste products. Fluids can help increase urination and remove bacteria from the urethra.
4. Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is key for managing any sort of kidney disease. This is because kidney disease alters the metabolism of water, protein, salt, potassium, and phosphorus.
A diet best suited for the health of your kidneys will include nutrient-dense whole foods that are loaded in electrolytes and antioxidants.
Focus on foods that include blueberries, cranberries, celery, leafy greens, burdock, avocado, bananas, sea vegetables like seaweed, and citrus fruits like lemons. Also monitor your intake of potassium by eating whole foods like cabbage, green beans, apples, and grapes.
Additionally, avoid certain foods like processed meats, dairy, alcohol or caffeine, too much protein, and foods high in oxalic acid like tomatoes, collards, rhubarb, eggplants, beets, blackberries, strawberries, and cocoa.
For those looking to prevent further kidney damage, there are some natural supplements that may help keep the kidneys and other digestive organs healthy. When the kidneys aren’t working well, this impacts the electrolyte balance in the body.
Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are responsible for creating chemical reactions in the body. When electrolyte levels are too high, IV fluids may be necessary to encourage the kidneys to release extra electrolytes.
But, when electrolytes are low, phosphorus or potassium may need to be supplemented.
Herbal remedies also used in the treatment of nephritis include dandelion root, astragalus root, cordyceps mushroom, aloe vera, neetle, salvia root, rhubarb root, and wild yam root.
Tips to Prevent Nephritis
The prevention of nephritis is also possible with a few healthy guidelines. For instance, People with kidney problems should be sure to quit smoking, regulate both blood pressure and blood sugar, and maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise.
How else can you prevent nephritis naturally? Follow a few nephritis prevention tips below:
1. Wipe properly
Women should wipe from front to back after urination and after a bowel movement. Wiping front to back will keep bacteria from spreading from the rectal area to the urethra.
2. Urinate often
Urinate when the urge arises and often to ensure that bacteria don’t grow in the urine that’s in the bladder. It is also important to urinate shortly after sex to help flush out bacteria that may have entered the urethra.
3. Wear loose-fitting clothing
Wearing loose-fitting underwear and other clothing will allow air to keep the urethra dry. Nylon, tight jeans, or wet swimsuits can be problematic, since moisture can be trapped and allow bacterial growth.
4. Proper hygiene
The genital area should be kept dry and clean. Women should avoid using feminine hygiene sprays or douches, since these can irritate the urethra. Women also must change their and tampons and pads on a regular basis during their period.
Nephritis Can Be Serious
Nephritis is inflammation that can lead to serious kidney damage and kidney failure. The different types of nephritis include interstitial nephritis, pyelonephritis, glomerulonephritis, lupus nephritis, IgA nephropathy, and Alport syndrome.
The most characteristic symptoms of nephritis include frequent urination, exhaustion, fatigue, water retention, kidney or abdominal pain, pain or burning from urination, pelvic pain, or cloudy urine.
The causes of nephritis will depend on the type of nephritis. Some of these causes include infections like hepatitis B or C and HIV; lupus; and medications that include antibiotics, NSAIDs, and diuretics. That being said, antibiotics are also used to treat nephritis, as well as dialysis, rest and hydration, and healthy diet, and certain supplements like electrolytes.
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