What is nephrotic syndrome in children?
Nephrotic syndrome is a condition that causes the kidneys to leak large amounts of proteins into the urine. Think of it as a colander with big holes. This can lead to many problems, including swelling of body tissues and a greater chance of catching infections.
- How common is nephrotic syndrome in children?
Around 1 in every 50,000 children are diagnosed with the condition every year.It tends to be more common in families with a history of allergies or those of Asian background, although it’s unclear why.
When protein spills into the urine, this can cause:
- The low level of protein in the blood reduces the flow of water from the body tissues back into the blood vessels, leading to swelling.Swelling is usually first noticed around the eyes, then around the lower legs and the rest of the body.
- Feeling fatigued and not having the energy to do regular activities. Any chronic illness can make one feel extremely tired.
- Loss of appetite
- Too much protein escaping into the urine leaves a lack of protein in the blood which can result in malnutrition and change your perception of certain foods.
- Antibodies are a specialized group of proteins in the blood that help to fight infection. When these are lost, children are much more likely to get infections.
- Urine changes
- Occasionally, the high levels of protein being passed into the urine can cause it to become frothy. Some children with nephrotic syndrome may even pass less urine than usual during relapses.
STUDIES SUGGEST A COMPLEX SET OF FACTORS ARE INVOLVED THAT CAUSE NEPHROTIC SYNDROME IN CHILDREN
What can we expect with early diagnosis and proper medication?
- 93% of children respond well to steroids
- 85% of children become disease-free during childhood
- Relapses are common: 74% of the children who respond will relapse within 5 months
Some essential vaccinations:
- Children with nephrotic syndrome are advised to have pneumococcal vaccines.
- Some children may also be recommended varicella. (chickenpox)
How do health care professionals diagnose nephrotic syndrome in children?
Nephrotic syndrome in children is diagnosed with
- a medical and family history
- a physical exam
- urine tests, to look for excess urine proteins
- blood tests, to test kidney function and to look for underlying diseases
Additional tests to identify the cause of nephrotic syndrome may include
Many children with nephrotic syndrome will not need a kidney biopsy. The test is usually reserved for children who have the complex disease, who have low kidney function, or who are 12 years old or older.
- What else should one know about nephrotic syndrome in children?
Minimal change disease causes most cases of nephrotic syndrome in kids. Those who get prednisone usually respond well, and the problem goes away by the time they’re teens. In the meantime, kids might need to take medicines for a few months or more.
Sometimes, a child will have a relapse. This means the nephrotic syndrome comes back after going away. In this case, treatment starts again until the child outgrows the condition or it improves on its own.
The sooner treatment for the nephrotic condition starts, the better. If your child shows any signs of the condition, call your doctor so it can get checked out right away.