Nephrotic syndrome is a condition marked by very high levels of protein in the urine; low levels of protein in the blood; swelling, especially around the eyes, feet, and hands; and high cholesterol. Nephrotic syndrome results from damage to the kidneys' glomeruli (the singular form is glomerulus). Glomeruli are a network of capillaries that filter waste and excess water from the blood and send them to the bladder as urine.
Nephrotic syndrome can occur with many diseases, including the kidney diseases caused by diabetes mellitus, but some causes are unknown. Treatment of nephrotic syndrome relies on controlling these diseases.
Treatment of nephrotic syndrome focuses on identifying the underlying cause if possible and reducing high cholesterol, blood pressure, and protein in urine through diet, medications, or both. One group of blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors also protects the kidneys in diabetic patients and patients with protein in their urine.
Nephrotic syndrome may go away once the underlying cause, if known, has been treated. However, most of the time a kidney disease is the underlying cause. Sometimes the type of disease is obvious, such as diabetes, but often a kidney biopsy is required. Depending on the disease, a cure may or may not be possible. In cases where the disease cannot be halted or reversed, the kidneys may gradually lose their ability to filter wastes and excess water from the blood. If kidney failure occurs, the patient will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.