Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates, visitor restrictions and resources →

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis

  • Definition
    • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is scar tissue in the filtering unit of the kidney. This structure is called the glomerulus. The glomeruli serve as filters that help the body get rid of harmful substances. Each kidney has thousands of glomeruli.

      "Focal" means that some of the glomeruli become scarred. Others remain normal. "Segmental" means that only part of an individual glomerulus is damaged.

  • Alternative Names
    • Segmental glomerulosclerosis; Focal sclerosis with hyalinosis

  • Causes
    • The cause of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is often unknown.

      The condition affects both children and adults. It occurs slightly more often in men and boys. It is also more common in African Americans. Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis causes up to a quarter of all cases of nephrotic syndrome.

      Known causes include:

      • Drugs such as heroin, bisphosphonates, anabolic steroids
      • Infection
      • Inherited genetic problems
      • Obesity
      • Reflux nephropathy (a condition in which urine flows backward from the bladder to the kidney)
      • Sickle cell disease
      • Some medicines
  • Symptoms
    • Symptoms may include:

      • Foamy urine (from excess protein in the urine)
      • Poor appetite
      • Swelling, called generalized edema, from fluids held in the body
      • Weight gain
  • Exams and Tests
    • The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This exam may show tissue swelling (edema) and high blood pressure. Signs of kidney (renal) failure and excess fluid may develop as the condition gets worse.

      Tests may include:

  • Treatment
    • Treatments may include:

      • Medicines to reduce the body's inflammatory response.
      • Medicines to lower blood pressure. Some of these medicines also help reduce the amount of protein that spills into the urine.
      • Medicines to get rid of excess fluid (diuretic or "water pill")
      • Low sodium diet to reduce swelling and lower blood pressure

      The goal of treatment is to control the symptoms of nephrotic syndrome and prevent chronic kidney failure. These treatments may include:

      • Antibiotics to control infections
      • Fluid restriction
      • Low-fat diet
      • Low- or moderate-protein diet
      • Vitamin D supplements
      • Dialysis
      • Kidney transplant
  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • More than half of those with focal or segmental glomerulosclerosis develop chronic kidney failure within 10 years.

  • Possible Complications
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
  • Prevention
    • No prevention is known.

  • References
    • Appel GB, Radhakrishnan J. Glomerular disorders and nephrotic syndromes In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 121.

      Korbet S. Treatment of primary FSGS in adults. JASN. 2012;23(11):1769-76. PMID: 22997260

      Nachman PH, Jennette JC, Falk RJ. Primary glomerular disease. In: Taal MW, Chertow GM, Marsden PA et al, eds. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 31.