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    Rare kidney disease prompts new treatment options

medical illustration of normal kidney and diseased kidney
After diabetes and high blood pressure, glomerulonephritis is the third leading cause of kidney failure in the U.S., according to the U.S. Renal Data System.

Glomerulonephritis (GN) is a disease that damages the tiny filters in the kidneys called glomeruli and can affect individuals of all ages, gender, and race or ethnicity. These filters get inflamed, which causes protein and blood to spill into the urine, or they become scarred, which prevents the elimination of waste from the body.

“If GN is not diagnosed early or traditional treatments fail, kidney function can progressively decline, and patients may require dialysis or need a kidney transplant,” says nephrologist Dr. Nabeel Aslam.  Conditions that can lead to inflammation of the kidneys' glomeruli include infections and viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and autoimmune illnesses such as lupus. Various cancers and medications also can cause GN. “There are many types and causes of GN, which can make treatment challenging,” says Dr. Aslam.

New treatments and support

To address this rare disease and streamline care for patients, Mayo Clinic has added a multidisciplinary Glomerulonephritis Clinic to its Florida campus.

Our goal with the GN clinic is to promptly identify and treat patients affected by this disorder, so they can avoid long-term complications. It’s important that patients with GN have access to a full team of specialists to address all the possible effects and issues that can come with kidney disease and failure.
- Dr. Aslam

The clinic includes a comprehensive team of nephrologists, nephro-pathologists, radiologists, rheumatologists and nutritionists to manage care, address side effects and, hopefully, avoid a transplant, adds Dr. Aslam. "In addition, we are able to offer participation in research trials to evaluate new treatments for patients with glomerulonephritis,” he says.

The development of new targeted medicines that affect the specific immune system cells are showing promise in treating patients with various types of GN. There are also new tests that help diagnose and monitor the response to the treatment for patients with GN.

“Our GN team specializes in interpreting these new tests, selecting appropriate patients who can benefit from the new targeted medicines and managing side effects. This can help preserve kidney function and avoid the need for dialysis or kidney transplant,” explains Dr. Aslam.

Seeking medical attention

Dr. Aslam recommends seeking medical attention if patients have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Swelling of the legs
  • Red or tea-colored urine
  • A rapid 10-20 pound weight gain with edema
  • Sudden increased blood pressure

Watch: Dr. Aslam discusses rare kidney disease treatments.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Aslam are in the downloads.