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Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (GN)

Definition

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (GN) is a disorder of the kidneys that occurs after infection with certain strains of streptococcus bacteria.

Alternative Names

Glomerulonephritis - post-streptococcal; Post-infectious glomerulonephritis

Causes

Post-streptococcal GN is a form of glomerulonephritis. It is caused by an infection with a type of streptococcus bacteria. The infection does not occur in the kidneys, but in a different part of the body, such as the skin or throat.

The strep bacterial infection causes the tiny blood vessels in the filtering units of the kidneys (glomeruli) to become inflamed. This makes the kidneys less able to filter the urine.

Post-streptococcal GN is uncommon today because infections that can lead to the disorder are commonly treated with antibiotics. The disorder may develop 1 to 2 weeks after an untreated throat infection, or 3 to 4 weeks after a skin infection.

It may occur in people of any age, but it most often occurs in children ages 6 through 10. Although skin and throat infections are common in children, post-streptococcal GN is a rare complication of these infections.

Risk factors include:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

A physical examination shows swelling (edema), especially in the face. Abnormal sounds may be heard when listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope (auscultation). Blood pressure is often high.

Other tests that may be done include:

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for this disorder. Treatment is focused on relieving symptoms.

  • Antibiotics, such as penicillin, will likely be used to destroy any streptococcal bacteria that remain in the body.
  • Blood pressure medicines and diuretic drugs may be needed to control swelling and high blood pressure.
  • Corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory medicines are generally not effective.

You may need to limit salt in the diet to control swelling and high blood pressure.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Post-streptococcal GN usually goes away by itself after several weeks to months.

In small number of adults, it may get worse and lead to long-term (chronic) kidney failure. Sometimes, it can progress to end-stage kidney disease, which requires dialysis and a kidney transplant.

Possible Complications

Health problems that may result from this disorder include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of post-streptococcal GN
  • You have post-streptococcal GN, and you have decreased urine output or other new symptoms

Prevention

Treating known streptococcal infections may help prevent post-streptococcal GN.

References

Meyrier A. Postinfectious glomerulonephritis. In: Gilbert SJ, Weiner DE, eds. National Kidney Foundation Primer on Kidney Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 22.

Pan CG, Avner ED. Glomerulonephritis associated with infections. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme, JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 511.

Review Date:9/22/2015
Reviewed By:Charles Silberberg, DO, private practice specializing in nephrology, affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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