Nephrotic Syndrome

Facts You Should Know About Nephrotic Syndrome

Edema and foamy urine are signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome.
Edema and foamy urine are signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome.
  • Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder that causes protein to be lost in the urine (proteinuria) due to leaks in the filtering system of the kidney.
  • Causes of nephrotic syndrome range widely from genetic causes to trauma. Many are underlying diseases or problems that affect the kidneys.
  • Risk factors are numerous and include diabetes, hypertension, age over 60, family history, kidney problems, and many others.
  • Signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome include the following:
    • Facial swelling
    • Dependent edema (for example, ankle swelling)
    • Foamy urine (due to protein in urine)
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Generalized swelling due to fluid retention or edema (manifestation of fluid in tissues)
    • Diabetic retinopathy
    • Ascites
    • Pleural effusions (fluid in lungs)
    • Hypercoagulability (fast blood clot formation)
  • Doctors make a diagnosis by performing lab testing of urine and blood and/or biopsy in many individuals.
  • Treatments include hypertension reduction, diuretics, cholesterol-reducing drugs, blood thinners, and immune suppression.
  • Home remedies are usually diet-related measures.
  • Complications may include
  • The prognosis in infants is poor. Others may have a good to poor prognosis depending on the underlying disease being responsive to treatments.
  • It is possible to prevent nephrotic syndrome in some people, but not in others, depending on the treatability of underlying causes.

What Is Nephrotic Syndrome?

Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder that causes the body to over excrete protein into the urine (proteinuria) due to damage to small vessels (glomeruli) in the kidney. They become leaky and edema (excess fluid in the body tissues) develops.

What Causes Nephrotic Syndrome?

In general, any problem, drug, disease, or genetics that cause or allow damage to the glomeruli of the kidney can cause nephrotic syndrome. Primary causes include kidney diseases like membranous nephropathy and focal glomerulosclerosis. Secondary causes include diabetes, lupus, amyloidosis, and heroin use. Mutations of genes that code for several proteins (for example, congenital and hereditary focal glomerulosclerosis) in kidney cells may also cause the disease. Nephrotic syndrome can be of several types: acute (kidney injury), chronic (genetic cause), idiopathic (unknown cause), steroid sensitive or resistant, and types that frequently relapse.

What Are Nephrotic Syndrome Risk Factors?

Risk factors for nephrotic syndrome include diabetes, high blood pressure, family history of the disease, age over 60, race/ethnicity (African, Native, Asian, and Hispanic Americans), polycystic kidneys, kidney cancer, autoimmune diseases, acute kidney trauma, and drugs or any cause that leads to glomerulonephritis (a form of kidney inflammation).


The only purpose of the kidneys is to filter blood. See Answer

What Are Nephrotic Syndrome Symptoms and Signs?

The first sign of nephrotic syndrome in children is swelling of the face. In adults, it can be dependent edema. The signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome may include the following:

  • Facial swelling
  • Dependent edema (for example, ankle swelling)
  • Foamy urine (due to protein in urine)
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Generalized edema (manifestation of fluid in tissues)
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Ascites
  • Pleural effusions
  • Hypercoagulability

How Do Doctors Diagnose Nephrotic Syndrome?

The usual first test done is dipstick urinalysis to determine the approximate amount of protein present in the urine. A 3+ result indicates the level of protein present in urine is in the nephrotic syndrome range. Other tests (sediment exams, albumen levels in the blood, biopsy of kidneys, for example) may be done to help determine any underlying causes. Children may have genetic testing done.

What Are Treatment Options for Nephrotic Syndrome?

The aim of treatment of nephrotic syndrome focuses on reducing symptoms and treating any underlying causes. Doctors may administer or prescribe the following types of medications:

Medical professionals administer medications on an individual basis and are best determined by your medical condition and your medical caregivers.

Are There Home Remedies for Nephrotic Syndrome?

Most home remedies for nephrotic syndrome are based on diet considerations that may reduce symptoms of edema. Choosing lean (low fat and low cholesterol) sources of protein, a low-salt diet, and limiting foods high in glucose may be helpful. Some recommend zinc supplements, but people should consult their doctors before using them.

What Are Complications for Nephrotic Syndrome?

Complications of this syndrome include the following:

What Is the Prognosis for Nephrotic Syndrome?

Infants with the disease have a poor prognosis; survival is possible with dialysis and kidney transplant. Those with acute disease have a good prognosis if the underlying causes can be treated. Those with chronic disease have a more guarded prognosis especially if they develop complications.

Is It Possible to Prevent Nephrotic Syndrome?

It may be possible to prevent some types of the disease by stopping the underlying cause (prevention of kidney trauma, avoiding heroin use) while it's impossible to prevent the other types (genetic cause). In general, if it's possible to prevent the underlying cause, it's possible to prevent the disease.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Nephrotic syndrome is a disorder of the kidneys.

Nephrotic Syndrome Symptom


The organs of the abdomen are contained in a sac or membrane called the peritoneum. Normally the peritoneal cavity contains only a small amount of fluid, although in women this can vary (by 20 ml, or less than an ounce) depending on the menstrual cycle. Ascites is the term used to denote increased fluid in the peritoneal cavity, a situation that is not normal.

Cohen, E. "Nephrotic Syndrome." July 9, 2019. <>.

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