The term “kidney disease” sounds like it refers just to one form of illness, but in fact it covers a wide range of kidney problems. While the symptoms of each are often quite similar, because there are only a certain number of ways kidney impairment will manifest, the underlying causes are often different. Sometimes the kidneys are damaged from high blood pressure, sometimes the problem is polycystic kidney disease, and at other times, the underlying cause of disease is Focal Glomerulosclerosis.
The very name is a mouthful, but it’s derived from the glomeruli, or clusters of very small blood vessels in the kidney that help to filter blood. Sclerosis refers to thickening which, in this case, means scarring from some source. And in the same way as “kidney disease,” the scarring of “glomerulosclerosis” can also have many possible sources. It might have come from an original kidney infection, it could be caused by existing lupus or diabetes, or it might even be genetic in some cases. Even inflammation can cause scarring of these tiny vessels.
The symptoms are much the same as those for everything else we think of as kidney disease. So glomerulosclerosis, therefore, can similarly go undetected in its early stages. It will manifest in the same ways: increased protein levels in urine, possible rise in blood pressure, fatigue, itchy skin, and so on.
Some of the tests are the same as for “ordinary” kidney disease too: primarily blood and urine tests. But the only way to know for sure if a patient has glomerulosclerosis is by taking a kidney biopsy. The tiny kidney sample taken with a needle will reveal scarring of the blood vessels when examined under a microscope.
This condition is treated similarly to other kidney disease, with an extra twist or two. Reduction of blood pressure is very important, as is reduction of cholesterol. Salt and protein intake needs to be lowered. But the patient may also take immunosuppressant drugs, which will help reduce protein levels further.
Unfortunately, though, the scarred blood vessels can’t be repaired, so glomerulosclerosis can’t be cured or reversed. For some, especially if the condition is genetic, it may continue getting worse until a transplant is needed. But for most people, with proper treatment, diet, and other precautions, this version of kidney disease can probably be held almost at a standstill. Taking good care, they can often live many good years with little, if any, worsening of the condition.