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FAQ: Rapidly Progressive Glomerulonephritis Print E-mail
Written by Mike Cohen   
Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis (RPGN) is a rapid deterioration in kidney function over a short time. This condition usually occurs when there is an acute inflammation of the kidneys.

What is going on in the body?

RPGN is linked to an immune reaction against the glomerulus, the filtering unit of the kidney. Antibodies that form against an infection can become trapped in the glomeruli. The resulting inflammation causes protein and blood to be excreted in the urine. The ability of the kidneys to get rid of toxic wastes is impaired.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?
The causes of RPGN include:
_ systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disorder in which the person produces antibodies against his or her own tissue
_ hepatitis
_ infection, such as endocarditis, an inflammation in the heart, or syphilis
_ viral infections, such as mumps, measles, or mononucleosis What are the treatments for the disease?

Treatment of RPGN depends on the underlying cause. Corticosteroids or other medications that suppress the immune system may be used. Plasmapharesis, or blood filtering, may be done. The person may need bed rest and restricted fluid and salt intake, to give the kidneys a chance to heal. Treatment for the underlying cause, such as antibiotics for a strep infection, may also be needed.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Corticosteroids can cause fluid retention, swelling, weight gain, and increased risk of infection. Taking corticosteroids for a long time can cause osteoporosis, or bone thinning. Some of the more aggressive medication treatments may increase the risk of infections and cancer.

What happens after treatment for the disease?
Early treatment of RPGN is essential to avoid kidney damage. Severe RPGN can result in end-stage renal disease.

How is the disease monitored?
Close follow-up with the healthcare provider is needed. Regular blood tests can help monitor for recurrences of RPGN. Kidney function should also be monitored regularly. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


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