Nephrotic syndrome is a group of symptoms that indicate problems with kidney function. These may include:
There are 2 types of nephrotic syndrome:
The kidneys filter out wastes and excess fluid from the blood, while keeping important elements, like proteins, in the blood. The kidney can get injured by substances in the blood, from infections, autoimmune diseases, and other factors. The injury affects the microscopic filters of the kidney, making it harder for the kidneys to work properly. Proteins, which are supposed to stay in the blood, get filtered out and excreted in the urine. Over time, chronic injury causes waste products that should be filtered out to stay in the blood.
This is likely related to genetic or immune system factors. In children, the most common known cause is minimal change disease.
Nephrotic syndrome is more common in males. Other factors that may increase the risk of kidney injury include:
Nephrotic syndrome may cause:
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, which includes checking your child’s blood pressure.
To see how well the kidneys are working your doctor may take:
A kidney biopsy may also be done. A sample of kidney tissue is removed and examined to look for change to kidney tissue.
On rare occasions kidney ultrasound may be done to look for structural problems or blockages
Nephrotic syndrome can be managed. Treatment options may depend on the cause and type of nephrotic syndrome.
For primary nephrotic syndrome, corticosteroids may control the disease. Other treatment will be given to manage symptoms like fluid retention or high blood pressure. In many children, nephrotic syndrome resolves with age without long-term kidney damage.
With secondary nephrotic syndrome, the underlying condition will be treated. Other symptoms will also be treated.
Some children may have periods of remission when nephrotic syndrome does not cause problems. There may be other times when there is a relapse and symptoms are more active.
In some children, the first episode may require hospitalization to treat more severe symptoms like breathing problems. Medications may given through an IV until your child is stabilized.
Certain changes to the diet will help reduce symptoms, like swelling. The doctor may recommend limiting salt, saturated fats, cholesterol, and fluids.
Changes to dietary intake may change as your child grows and their condition improves.
Medications can be used to manage symptoms. These may include:
If medications are causing nephrotic syndrome, your child’s doctor may stop or change them.
The doctor may advise certain vaccines for your child or family to reduce the risk of infection. These may include vaccines for the flu or pneumonia.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders
National Kidney Foundation
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Childhood nephrotic syndrome. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/kidney-disease/nephrotic-syndrome-in-children/Pages/index.aspx. Updated September 2014. Accessed October 28, 2016.
Childhood nephrotic syndrome. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/childns. Accessed October 28, 2016.
Nephrotic syndrome. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/nephrotic-syndrome.html. Updated March 2014. Accessed October 28, 2016.
Nephrotic syndrome in children. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website. Available at: http://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/nephrotic-syndrome-children. Accessed October 28, 2016.
Nephrotic syndrome in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900359/Nephrotic-syndrome-in-children. Updated April 4, 2016. Accessed October 28, 2016.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.