Definition

Nephrotic syndrome is a group of changes affecting the kidneys. These may involve:

  • High amounts of protein in the urine
  • High cholesterol in the blood
  • Swelling in the body—mainly in the feet and legs
  • Sudden weight gain

Anatomy of the Kidney

Glomerulonephritis
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Causes

Tiny tubules inside the kidneys filter wastes from the blood and make urine. If they aren’t working well, wastes and fluids build up in the body.

The most common cause in children is minimal change disease. Other kidney diseases can also cause this syndrome.

Causes from other health problems can also harm the kidneys. This may be from an infection or a blood disorder.

Certain genes that run in families can also cause nephrotic syndrome.

Risk Factors

Your child's chances are higher if they:

Symptoms

If your child has problems, you may notice:

  • Swelling of feet, ankles, and legs—less often belly, hands, and face
  • Weight gain—caused by too much fluid in the body
  • Breathing problems—caused by too much fluid in the lungs
  • A feeling of sickness
  • Pale skin
  • Mood changes
  • Lack of hunger
  • Foamy urine
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. They may also have:

  • A physical exam—the doctor may notice fluid buildup
  • Urine tests to look for blood, certain proteins, or other markers
  • Blood tests to look for certain proteins or other markers, or count blood cells
  • A kidney biopsy

Your child may be referred to a specialist for care.

Treatment

In most children, nephrotic syndrome goes away on its own without long term harm. If your child has a health condition that is causing these problems, it will need to be treated.

In some children, the first time they need care, it may be in a hospital. Care may involve IV medicines.

Your child may have times when the syndrome does not cause problems. There may be other times when there is a relapse and symptoms are more active.

Care may involve:

Certain changes to the diet will help ease problems such as swelling. You may have to limit salt, fats, cholesterol, and fluids in your child’s diet.

Care may involve medicines to manage:

  • The effects of the immune system and improve kidney function—corticosteroids
  • Fluid buildup—diuretics
  • High blood pressure
  • The amount of protein in the urine

If your child’s medicines are causing harm to the kidneys, their doctor will change them.

Prevention

There are no steps to prevent nephrotic syndrome.