Nephrotic Syndrome

Make an Appointment

Nephrotic syndrome is a buildup of protein in the kidneys and a loss of protein through the urine. Your child may experience many episodes of nephrotic syndrome throughout life, but it is likely your child will outgrow the condition.


Nephrotic syndrome happens when the kidney’s glomeruli (small structures that help filter out waste from the blood) are damaged and don’t function properly. In most cases, the cause of nephrotic syndrome is not known. In a small number of cases, the disease is inherited and develops shortly after birth.

Symptoms of Nephrotic Syndrome 

Your child may exhibit the following:

  • High protein levels in the urine
  • Low protein levels in the blood
  • Swelling, especially of the belly
  • Weight gain (from fluid buildup)
  • High cholesterol
  • Decrease in urination frequency
  • Fatigue and general discomfort
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Foamy urine
  • Change in appearance
  • Food intolerance

Diagnosis and Treatment at UVA Health Children's

At UVA Health Children's, your child’s doctor may perform or recommend:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • Kidney ultrasound
  • Kidney biopsy

Your child may need to stay at the hospital, especially during your child’s first episode of nephrotic syndrome, for monitoring and symptom control. Some treatments may affect your child’s immune system.

Treatments may include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Diuretics
  • Special diet