What Is the Difference Between Nephritis and Nephrosis?

Reviewed on 3/22/2021

What is nephritis vs. nephrosis?

Nephritis is a condition that causes inflammation of the kidneys while nephrosis is a condition that causes you to lose too much protein in the urine.
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Nephritis and nephrosis are both kidney conditions that require medical attention. Both conditions refer to problems with your kidney. If you have either of these conditions, it means that your kidneys are not working as they should. This interferes with your body's detoxing process and can be fatal. 

Knowing the difference between symptoms and warning signs of these two kidney conditions can help you get the right treatment. Below, you’ll discover how to identify the signs and get the proper diagnosis and treatment. 

What is nephritis

Nephritis is also known as glomerulonephritis, and is a condition that causes inflammation (swelling) of your kidneys. This makes it difficult for your body to filter the waste from your blood.

There are multiple types of nephritis. It can be either acute or chronic. Chronic nephritis happens silently over several years and is a leading cause of kidney failure. Acute nephritis develops suddenly and could be linked to throat or skin infections that require antibiotics. Acute nephritis can lead to chronic nephritis later on.  

What is nephrosis

Nephrosis is also called nephrotic syndrome, and is caused by a variety of diseases. These attacks on your body lead to your kidneys being unable to prevent proteins from leaking into your urine

Nephrosis is a condition that describes multiple symptoms which indicate your kidneys are not working like they should. They are no longer filtering to keep protein in your blood and fat or cholesterol out of your blood. 

What are symptoms and signs of nephritis vs. nephrosis?

Nephritis and nephrosis both indicate serious kidney conditions, but they have some differing symptoms. There are also some shared symptoms, and you may not have all of them at once. Some symptoms may occur suddenly, and sometimes you may not have any symptoms while the condition is developing.

Symptoms of nephritis

Nephritis can occur suddenly or develop silently over time. These symptoms could lead to kidney damage or failure. It’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing them. Symptoms of nephritis include: 

Chronic nephritis may occur with or without symptoms, but early signs, in addition to the symptoms listed above, may include: 

  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Very bubbly or foamy urine

Symptoms of nephrosis

Nephrosis is not a specific kidney disease, but rather can happen during any kidney disease that damages your kidneys’ ability to filter waste. There are other diseases that can cause nephrosis which include diabetes and lupus

If you have nephrosis, you may experience the following symptoms: 

  • Blood and protein in your urine
  • Swelling or puffiness in your face
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Foamy urine
  • Loss of appetite

What are causes of nephritis vs. nephrosis?

There are multiple causes of nephritis and nephrosis. Nephritis is a disease and nephrosis is a collection of symptoms, and their causes can differ. 

Causes of nephritis

Nephritis can be caused by infections like strep throat or other illnesses like lupus, Goodpasture syndrome, Wegener’s disease. Noticing the warning signs and getting an early diagnosis and treatment help prevent future kidney failure. 

Chronic nephritis can be hereditary. In some cases, the condition has been seen in multiple members of the same family. In other cases, you may develop chronic nephritis years after an acute attack.

Other causes include: 

Causes of nephrosis

Nephrosis is primarily caused by diseases and conditions that only affect the kidneys. These include focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and membranous nephropathy. In FSGS, scar tissues form in the kidney. However, it can also be caused by conditions like diabetes or lupus

Less common causes of nephrosis include venous thromboembolism, acute renal failure, or a serious bacterial infection


 

How to diagnose nephritis vs. nephrosis

For either condition, you may or may not experience early warning signs and symptoms. In some cases, you may not know you have nephritis or nephrosis until your kidneys have faced serious damage. Nephritis is often found during routine health checks by looking at your blood pressure, a blood test for kidney function, and a urine test for protein or blood in your urine.

A doctor will diagnose nephrosis after finding large amounts of protein in your urine. They can discover this with a urine test. In some cases, your doctor may request a kidney biopsy. This is a procedure that involves taking a piece of your kidney tissue for examination under a microscope. Your doctor can perform this and may send it off to a lab for diagnosis. 

Treatments of nephritis vs. nephrosis

Acute nephritis may go away on its own, or your condition might require medication or treatment. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, but not to treat your nephritis. Antibiotics are used to treat the bacterial infection that may cause your condition. 

If your condition worsens, your doctor can order a dialysis to filter out harmful proteins from your blood.

If you have chronic nephritis your doctor may suggest: 

To treat nephrosis, you will first need to address the underlying cause of your nephrotic syndrome symptoms. Your doctor will likely prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol and recommend dietary changes. Nephrosis may go away if you treat the underlying cause successfully. 

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References
SOURCES:

American Family Physician: "Nephrotic Syndrome in Adults: Diagnosis and Management."

American Kidney Fund: "Nephrotic syndrome."

familydoctor.org: "Interstitial Nephritis."

Kidney Health: "Nephritis."

National Cancer Institute: "Nephritis."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Problems: "Nephrotic Syndrome in Adults."

National Kidney Foundation: "Nephrotic Syndrome."

National Kidney Foundation: "What is Glomerulonephritis?"

The New England Journal of Medicine: "What is Nephrosis?"

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