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How do doctors diagnose nephrotic syndrome?

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Quick Answer

To diagnose nephrotic syndrome, doctors perform urinalysis tests to measure protein abnormalities in urine and blood tests to detect decreases in albumin proteins, according to Mayo Clinic. They may also recommend a biopsy, which involves using a needle to extract a tissue sample from the kidneys.

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Nephrotic syndrome is a condition that causes the kidneys to excrete excess protein in urine, explains Mayo Clinic. Clusters of blood vessels, known as glomeruli, normally filter blood circulated through the kidneys, preventing albumin and other blood proteins from passing into urine. Nephrotic syndrome most often develops when glomeruli incur damage from underlying kidney problems, such as minimal change disease, diabetic kidney disease or systemic lupus.

People with nephrotic syndrome usually experience swelling, known as edema, from abnormal fluid retention, especially around the legs and eyes, notes the National Kidney Foundation. Leg swelling may be most noticeable after standing for long periods, and the protein-rich urine is often foamy. The treatment outlook for nephrotic syndrome depends on the underlying cause, and in the worst cases, patients suffer kidney failure.

Doctors may prescribe diuretics to control swelling or blood thinners when the syndrome is caused by clotting, reports Mayo Clinic. Blood pressure medication and cholesterol medication are used to reduce symptoms of glomeruli damage and excessive cholesterol production.

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