When Kiran Chawla’s 5-year-old son was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, she was unsure what it meant.
She visited the pediatrician after she noticed swelling on her son, Parth’s, eyes, face and arms every morning which tended to decrease towards the evening.
After the initial investigations, Parth was referred to Dr. Anunaya Katiyar, Pediatric Nephrologist at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital, Delhi for a specialist’s opinion.
Kiran was worried about her son’s health and wondered if his condition was more serious than she expected. She had many questions for her doctor.
What is nephrotic syndrome in children?
Kiran wanted to understand what it meant to have nephrotic syndrome. She asked the doctor for some clarification.
“Nephrotic syndrome in children presents as a group of symptoms that can indicate a kidney problem,” said Dr. Anunaya.
“It occurs mainly when your child’s kidneys are leaking protein from the blood into the urine.”
You may notice your child experiencing symptoms such as –
- Swelling (also known as edema) around the eyes, legs, or hands, that is maximum when they wake up and lessens as the day passes
- Passing less urine
- Presence of froth in urine, which usually indicates protein in the urine.
“Nephrotic syndrome in children can occur at any age.”
Kiran was commended for not delaying the doctor’s visit and seeking help as soon as she noticed persistent swelling on her child’s body.
Is nephrotic syndrome dangerous?
After her doubts were clarified, Kiran was worried about her son’s recovery.
“Is nephrotic syndrome curable? For how long will he have to be on leave from school?” asked Kiran.
Dr. Anunaya was quick to reassure her – “Your child should continue living his daily life as normal. With timely intervention, nephrotic syndrome in children can be managed.”
“While these symptoms can be a cause of anxiety for parents, it is important to keep in mind that treatment for nephrotic syndrome is relatively easy for most children.”
What causes nephrotic syndrome in childhood?
In most cases, the cause for nephrotic syndrome in children is not known.
“Could Parth be showing symptoms indicating something other than nephrotic syndrome?” asked Kiran.
“The symptoms your son is exhibiting are most commonly associated with nephrotic syndrome. Sometimes other conditions – such as nephritic syndrome, liver disease, protein-losing enteropathy, etc – may also present similar symptoms,” said Dr. Anunaya.
These conditions are ruled out using urine and blood tests in order to come to a more definitive conclusion.
Parth’s reports came out positive for nephrotic syndrome and his treatment was started immediately.
Treatment of Nephrotic Syndrome in Children
Most children are prescribed oral steroid drugs and respond well to steroid treatment.
“About 80% of children with nephrotic syndrome show a decrease in protein content in urine, following treatment with steroids, and are classified as ‘steroid sensitive’.”
“Usually the swelling around the face and eyes, as well as the presence of protein in urine goes away 1-2 weeks after medical care is initiated. Your child is in the remission stage when this happens.”
“Can my child develop nephrotic syndrome again after his treatment? What can I do to prevent that?” Kiran wanted to know.
“While kids may relapse after initial treatment, most will not develop serious or permanent kidney damage,” counseled Dr. Anunaya.
Here are some ways you can prevent changes of nephrotic syndrome relapse –
- Low salt diet – You will be recommended to reduce your child’s daily salt intake to prevent further swelling and water retention.
Make dietary changes such as avoiding processed foods. You can start cooking separate meals with no salt for your child.
- Pay attention to child’s health – It is important you monitor your child’s condition regularly at home. Your doctor may suggest daily checks for signs of relapse by testing your child’s urine for protein.
These checks can be carried out at home using urine test strips which are easily available in all chemist shops.
Parth did not suffer from relapses in the first year of his treatment. Much to Kiran’s relief, Parth’s health showed signs of improvement. His steroid treatment was also discontinued.
“With Dr. Anunaya’s advice in mind, I kept a close eye on Parth’s recovery,” said Kiran.
“I felt reassured enough after the consultations to know that if my son’s recovery had a setback, his treatment would be in safe hands.”