What is glomerulosclerosis?

Glomerulosclerosis is scarring in the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys called the glomeruli. These are the tiny units in the kidneys that filter urine from the blood.

What causes glomerulosclerosis?

Glomerulosclerosis may develop in children or adults. It can result from different types of kidney problems, and from diabetes.

What are the symptoms of glomerulosclerosis?

Early stages of glomerulosclerosis may not cause any symptoms. The most important sign of this condition is protein in the urine (proteinuria). This is often found during a routine exam. The loss of large amounts of protein could cause swelling in the ankles. It can also cause buildup of fluid in the abdomen, puffy eyes, or wide-spread fluid buildup. Severe proteinuria could mean end stage renal disease (ESRD) will develop.

How is glomerulosclerosis diagnosed?

Scarring causes problems with the filtering process of the kidneys. This causes protein to leak from the blood into the urine, where it can be detected.

Glomerulosclerosis is just one of many possible causes of protein in the urine. A kidney biopsy may be needed to find the cause. About 7% to 15% of people with protein in the urine have glomerulosclerosis.

What is the treatment for glomerulosclerosis?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

Scarred glomeruli cannot be repaired. Treatment aims to prevent further damage and to avoid dialysis. The best treatment for glomerulosclerosis depends on what caused the scarring. The cause is determined by a kidney biopsy. Treatment may include:

  • Immune system drugs. Drugs used to block the body's immune system. This prevents the body from making antibodies that may attack the glomerulus.
  • Dialysis. A treatment to remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood after the kidneys have stopped working.
  • Kidney transplant. This procedure replaces your diseased kidney with a healthy one from a donor.
  • Blood pressure lowering medications
  • Diet changes

Complications of glomerulosclerosis

Even with treatment, complications may develop. Your kidney function may decline to the point of kidney failure. This can require treatment such as dialysis or even a kidney transplant.

When should I call my health care provider?

If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your health care provider know.

Key points about glomerulosclerosis

  • Glomerulosclerosis is scarring of the filtering part of the kidneys (glomerulus). This causes a loss of protein into the urine. These proteins help fluid stay within the blood vessels. Without them, fluid leaks into the nearby tissue causing swelling.
  • Fluids are not properly filtered from the body by the kidneys into the urine. This causes fluid to build up in the body.
  • Medications to decrease the inflammation and swelling can be used.
  • For severe scarring, dialysis or kidney transplant may be needed for long-term survival.


Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.