FSGS is a disease that damages the glomeruli, which are the filtering units inside the kidneys that clean the blood. It leads to scarring, or sclerosis, in the kidneys.
FSGS only occurs in small sections of each glomerulus, or filter, in the early stages, when it damages just a few of the glomeruli. As the condition advances, it can cause serious health complications, such as kidney failure.
This article explores the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of FSGS. It also answers some common questions about FSGS.
A person may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of FSGS. As the disease progresses, signs and symptoms may include:
- high cholesterol
- weight gain as a result of excess fluid building up in the body
- swelling, or edema, in the ankles and legs and around the eyes
FSGS may cause nephrotic syndrome, a group of symptoms that indicate that the kidneys are not functioning properly. These symptoms include:
- high blood pressure
- loss of protein in the blood, which can lead to hypoproteinemia
- high cholesterol
If the condition is in the advanced stages, a person may experience kidney disease and kidney failure. FSGS is a leading cause of kidney disease.
The symptoms of kidney failure
- low appetite
- muscle cramps or weakness
- stiffness or fluid in the joints
- shortness of breath
- itchy skin
- confusion or memory problems
- low or no urine output
Primary FSGS is when the condition occurs on its own and has no obvious cause. Genetics may play a role in some cases. Secondary FSGS usually occurs due to another disease or a drug, which can damage the glomeruli in the kidneys.
Diseases that can cause FSGS include:
- sickle cell disease
- hepatitis C
- a previous glomerular disease
Drugs that can cause FSGS include:
- anabolic steroids
- mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors
FSGS is a chronic disease, and doctors cannot repair the scarring on the glomeruli. However, treatment may slow the disease. Some people may respond well to treatment, whereas others may experience a progression toward kidney failure. In these cases, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary.
A doctor will formulate a treatment plan based on the individual. The treatment options include:
- Immunosuppressive drugs: These drugs help prevent the immune system from attacking the glomeruli.
- Corticosteroids: These medications perform similarly to immunosuppressive drugs, calming the immune system and preventing attacks on the glomeruli.
- Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: ARBs and ACE inhibitors are medications that reduce the loss of protein in the blood and manage blood pressure.
- Diuretics: These drugs help the body rid itself of excess fluid and reduce swelling. They can also help lower blood pressure.
- Plasmapheresis: In this procedure, a machine
exchangesunhealthy plasma for healthy plasma, or a liquid substitute, in the blood.
- Dietary changes: People with FSGS may benefit from eating foods that are easier on the kidneys. Foods lower in sodium and protein may be beneficial.
A doctor can use several tests to help diagnose FSGS. These include:
- Blood tests: Doctors can use blood tests to check the levels of protein, wastes, and cholesterol in the blood, which can help them determine how the kidneys are functioning. A doctor may also perform a blood test called a glomerular filtration rate to determine how well the kidneys are filtering bodily waste.
- Urine tests: This test can reveal blood and protein in the urine.
- Genetic tests: A doctor can perform a genetic test to determine whether a person carries genes that are linked to kidney disease, which could help them decide on the best treatment type.
- Kidney biopsies: A doctor can remove a very small piece of the kidney with a needle and send it to a laboratory for analysis.
Below are answers to some of the most common questions about FSGS.
Is FSGS life threatening?
FSGS is not life threatening with appropriate treatment, but it is chronic and not reversible. The condition can lead to kidney disease and kidney failure. In such cases, a person may require a kidney transplant or dialysis to survive.
Is FSGS inherited?
A person may inherit FSGS, but this is not always the case. Certain diseases or drugs may also cause FSGS.
Does hypertension cause FSGS?
FSGS is a type of chronic disease that damages the glomeruli, which are the filtering units inside the kidneys. It causes scarring in the kidneys.
The condition can lead to nephrotic syndrome, which refers to a group of symptoms indicating that the kidneys are not working properly. It can also lead to kidney disease and kidney failure. In these cases, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary.
A doctor may diagnose FSGS by performing various tests, including blood and urine tests.
The treatment for FSGS can involve medications such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs, and diuretics. A doctor may also perform a procedure called plasmapheresis, which replaces unhealthy plasma with healthy plasma. A diet low in sodium and protein can also be beneficial.
A person should speak with a healthcare professional if they think that they may have FSGS.