Nephrotic Syndrome In Adults



Tiny filters in the kidneys remove waste from the blood and make urine. If they are not working well, wastes and fluids build up in the body.

The most common cause of nephrotic syndrome is damage from kidney problems such as:

  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
  • Membranous nephropathy
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • IgA nephropathy
  • Minimal change disease

Other causes are problems that harm the kidneys such as:

  • Diabetic nephropathy
  • A buildup of certain proteins—amyloidosis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Certain infections, such as HIV
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Some cancers

Risk Factors

The risk of nephrotic syndrome is higher in people who have:

  • Any of the health problems that cause the condition
  • Used certain medicines for a long time
  • Contact with certain toxins
  • Health problems that slow blood flow



Symptoms may be:

  • Swelling of feet, ankles, and legs—less often the belly, hands, and face
  • Feeling tired
  • Lack of hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Foamy urine
  • Breathing problems


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Blood and urine tests will be done to check kidney function. This is enough to make the diagnosis.

Other tests will be done to look for a cause. A doctor who treats kidney diseases will be needed.



In some people, nephrotic syndrome goes away on its own. In others, the cause will need to be treated. Options are:

  • Dietary changes
  • Medicines to lower:
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol
    • Fluid buildup
    • Protein in the urine
  • Dialysis to filter blood when the kidneys cannot


The risk of nephrotic syndrome may be lowered by managing health problems that can harm the kidneys.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.