About GN & Kidney Health

Healthy people have two kidneys that work to filter blood from waste products that are then sent to the bladder in order to be eliminated as urine. Each kidney is made up of about 1 million nephrons, which are the structural unit of the kidney.

Within the nephron, are a series of blood vessels and a filtering unit called the glomerulus. Glomeruli are what remove the water and other particles, such as sodium, from the blood to generate urine. Larger particles such as red blood cells and proteins that your body needs do not pass through the glomerulus and are instead sent back to the body.

However, sometimes the glomerulus can become damaged. When this happens, the important components in the blood such as proteins and red blood cells pass through the glomerulus and exit the body with the urine. The exact causes of glomerular damage are unknown, but inflammation is usually present. Other factors that can trigger glomerular damage include infection and certain drugs. This is why some of the signs of glomerular damage in kidney disease are hematuria, or blood in the urine, and proteinuria, or protein in the urine, which causes a frothy appearance.  Because these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, your healthcare provider may require a kidney biopsy to provide a diagnosis of glomerulonephritis. The kidney biopsy will allow a pathologist to view the glomeruli under a microscope.

Biopsy showing inflammation in the glomerulus (image Dr. A. Herzenberg)

Healthy glomerulus (image Dr. A. Herzenberg)

The name glomerulonephritis means inflammation of the kidneys. There are many diseases which fall under this category, including IgA nephropathy (IgAN), Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), Minimal Change Disease (MCD) Membranous Nephropathy (MGN), and Mesangioproliferative Glomerulonephritis (MPGN).  Please click on any of the FAQ documents below to learn more about that specific condition.