Glomerulonephritis is a diesease caused by the inflammation of the glomerulus caused due to bacterial or viral infection in the nephrons of the kidneys. But in order to better understand this disease, it is of critical importance to understand the functional unit of the kidneys: the nephron.
The kidneys are very important organs of our body, so important that we need two of them to properly maintain homestasis. The kidneys are responsible for two main functions: the regulation of blood pressure, and, filtration of wastes from the blood. It is obvious that kidneys are responsible for urine formation, but this is not their major function. Aside from the heart, the kidneys are the only organs that regulate blood pressure. They do this by simply regulating the volume of blood in the body by regulating the amount of water present in the blood. This process happens in the nephrons of the kidneys, and there are about one million nephrons per kidney.
Each nephron consists of a system of tubules with blood vessels wrapped around it. This setup helps in the passage of materials to and from the blood, and the tubules then carry the excess through the ureters to the urinary bladder. Analogous to a complex ball of yarn, the glomerulus of a nephron is a collection of capillaries. This particular conglomerate of capillaries is also under higher pressure, contributing to the process of filtration. But once the glomerulus becomes inflated, it affects the functions of the kidneys in the following ways:
1. Filtration – Due to the swelling of the glomerulus, kidneys are unable to filter out metabolic wastes because some of the pores in the membrane begin to shrink. On the other hand, leaks sprout up in other areas of the membrane causing blood cells and proteins to pass through the membrane into the urine.
2. Reabsorption – Since some of the pores are closed due to the inflammation, essential nutrients that were passed into the urine are unable to be reabsorbed and are excreted with the urine.
3. Storage- The urinary bladder has to store urine with blood and other heavy proteins which it is not designed for, causing strain and wear and tear of the bladder.
4. Excretion- Many essential nutrients and blood are excreted from the body with the urine, disrupting the regulation levels in the body.
5. Regulation – Due to the inflammation of the glomerulus, kidneys are unable to function properly because the essential nutrients and wastes are unable to pass through the membrane, causing irregular levels of pH levels, electrolytes and water.
Some of the symptoms of glomerulonephritis are high blood pressure, blood in urine, and swelling of eyes, feet, ankles, and lower abdomen.
Treatment of glomerulonephritis ususally involves dialysis as the disease causes kidney failure and eventually requires a transplant.