Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose nephrotic syndrome include:

  • Urine tests. A urinalysis can reveal abnormalities in your urine, such as large amounts of protein. You might be asked to collect urine samples over 24 hours.
  • Blood tests. A blood test can show low levels of the protein albumin and often decreased levels of blood protein overall. Loss of albumin is often associated with an increase in blood cholesterol and blood triglycerides. The creatinine and urea nitrogen levels in your blood also might be measured to assess your overall kidney function.
  • Kidney biopsy. Your doctor might recommend removing a small sample of kidney tissue for testing. During a kidney biopsy, a needle is inserted through your skin and into your kidney. Kidney tissue is collected and sent to a lab for testing.

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Treatment

Treatment for nephrotic syndrome involves treating any medical condition that might be causing your nephrotic syndrome. Your doctor might also recommend medications and changes in your diet to help control your signs and symptoms or treat complications of nephrotic syndrome.

Medications might include:

  • Blood pressure medications. Drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors reduce blood pressure and the amount of protein released in urine. Medications in this category include lisinopril (Prinvil, Qbrelis, Zestril), benazepril (Lotensin), captopril and enalapril (Vasotec).

    Another group of drugs that works similarly is called angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) and includes losartan (Cozaar) and valsartan (Diovan). Other medications, such as renin inhibitors, also might be used, though ACE inhibitors and ARBs are generally used first.

  • Water pills (diuretics). These help control swelling by increasing your kidneys' fluid output. Diuretic medications typically include furosemide (Lasix). Others include spironolactone (Aldactone, Carospir) and thiazides, such as hydrochlorothiazide or metolazone (Zaroxolyn).
  • Cholesterol-reducing medications. Statins can help lower cholesterol levels. However, it's not clear whether cholesterol-lowering medications can improve the outcomes for people with nephrotic syndrome, such as avoiding heart attacks or decreasing the risk of early death.

    Statins include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol XL), lovastatin (Altoprev), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor) and simvastatin (Zocor).

  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants). These might be prescribed to decrease your blood's ability to clot, especially if you've had a blood clot. Anticoagulants include heparin, warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), dabigatran (Pradaxa), apixaban (Eliquis) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto).
  • Immune system-suppressing medications. Medications to control the immune system, such as corticosteroids, can decrease the inflammation that accompanies some of the conditions that can cause nephrotic syndrome. Medications include rituximab (Rituxan), cyclosporine and cyclophosphamide.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Changes to your diet might help with nephrotic syndrome. Your doctor might refer you to a dietitian, who might recommend that you do the following:

  • Choose lean sources of protein. Plant-based protein is helpful in kidney disease.
  • Reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet to help control your blood cholesterol levels.
  • Eat a low-salt diet to help control swelling.
  • Reduce the amount of liquid in your diet.

Preparing for your appointment

Start by seeing your primary care doctor. If your doctor suspects you or your child has a kidney problem, such as nephrotic syndrome, you might be referred to a doctor who specializes in the kidneys (nephrologist).

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet. Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you'll be given.

Make a list of:

  • Your or your child's symptoms and when they began
  • Key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes
  • All medications, vitamins or other supplements you or your child takes, including doses
  • Questions to ask your doctor

For nephrotic syndrome, some questions to ask include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my or my child's nephrotic syndrome?
  • What tests do I or my child need?
  • Is this condition likely temporary?
  • What are the treatment options? And which do you recommend?
  • Are there changes I can make to my or my child's diet? Could consulting a dietitian help?
  • How can I best manage this condition with my or my child's other medical conditions?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:

  • Do symptoms come and go, or do you have them all the time?
  • How severe are the symptoms?
  • Does anything seem to improve the symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen the symptoms?
Jan. 30, 2020
  1. Ferri FF. Nephrotic syndrome. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2020. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 22, 2019.
  2. Nephrotic syndrome in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/nephrotic-syndrome-adults. Accessed Nov. 22, 2019.
  3. Kelepouris E, et al. Overview of heavy proteinuria and the nephrotic syndrome. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 24, 2019.
  4. A to Z health guide: Nephrotic syndrome. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/nephrotic. Accessed Nov. 22, 2019.
  5. Childhood nephrotic syndrome. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/children/childhood-nephrotic-syndrome. Accessed Nov. 22, 2019.

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