Skip to Content

Glomerular Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What is Glomerular Disease?

One of the most important functions of the kidney is to filter waste out of your blood using a million tiny filters called glomeruli. A glomerulus works a little bit like a kitchen colander, allowing waste and water to pass through to create urine.

Usually, blood will not pass through the “holes" in the colander, and instead return to your body. But if you have a kidney disease that damages your glomeruli, which we call glomerular disease, blood will pass through the holes and enter your urine.

Glomerular diseases can vary from mild to very serious and include some diseases that lead to rapid loss of kidney function.

Glomerular disease is a common cause of chronic kidney disease. The most common cause of glomerular disease is diabetic kidney disease. Less common causes are autoimmune diseases, infection related, medication related, or genetic disorders of the kidney. A kidney biopsy is usually needed to diagnose non-diabetic glomerular disease.

Causes and Types of Glomerular Diseases

Glomerular disease can be caused by:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Genetic disorders
  • Diabetes

Sometimes glomerular disease has no identifiable cause. When this happens, it is called idiopathic.

Risks and Complications of Glomerular Disease

The most serious risk of glomerular disease is chronic kidney disease. Some glomerular diseases cause a slowly progressive chronic kidney disease, and it might take 15 to 20 years to lose all kidney function. Other glomerular diseases cause a loss of kidney function in weeks to months. The sooner your kidney disease is diagnosed and treated, the higher your chances of slowing the progression of your illness and avoiding dialysis or kidney transplant.

Glomerular Disease Symptoms and Diagnosis

Glomerular disease often has few symptoms, but you may notice:

  • Pink or brown pee from the presence of red blood cells
  • Foamy pee from excess protein
  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling or retaining fluids

Diagnosing Glomerular Disease

To diagnose glomerular disease, your doctor will likely run:

  • Urine tests.
  • A blood test called Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) to measure how well your kidneys filter. A GFR result of 90 or above indicates normal kidney function.
  • Imaging tests, such as CT scans or x-rays.
  • A kidney biopsy.

Glomerular Disease Treatment

Early and precise diagnosis of glomerular disease is vital. Timely treatment is key to avoid kidney failure.

Treatment may include:

  • Diet changes and exercise.
  • Medicine to control blood pressure.     
  • Medicine to suppress the immune system.

Prevention of Glomerular Disease

It isn't always possible to prevent glomerular disease.

But you can reduce your risk by following doctors' orders:

  • Control your blood pressure if it's high.
  • Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
  • Seek prompt treatment for strep throat or impetigo infections.
  • Practice safe sex and avoid IV drug use to prevent infections like hepatitis and HIV.

At the UPMC Kidney Disease Center, we will work with you to identify a reversible cause for your glomerular disease. Our nephrologists treat conditions across the entire spectrum of kidney disease and provide comprehensive care by partnering with other services at UPMC.

Why Choose UPMC for Kidney Care?

No matter the cause of your glomerular disease, you have hope at the UPMC Kidney Disease Center. Our nephrologists treat conditions across the entire spectrum of kidney disease.

The UPMC Glomerular Disease Clinic is the only specialty clinic for glomerular disease in Western Pennsylvania. Our experts are leading with cutting-edge research, diagnosis, and treatment for glomerular disease.

Contact the UPMC Kidney Disease Center

To learn more about kidney disease: