Don’t Know Much about FSGS…

Being on chemotherapy is very tiring, so I stay home a lot and delve into anything that catches my eye, like FSGS. I’ve seen the letters before and had sort of a vague idea of what it might be, but what better time to explore it and whatever it may have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease than now?

Let’s start at the beginning. FSGS is the acronym for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Anything look familiar? Maybe the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis? I think we need to know the definition of glomerulosclerosis to be able to answer that question. The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Congress’s Medline Plus at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000478.htm defines it this way:

“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.”

So, we do know what the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis means. It refers to the same filters in the kidneys we’ve been discussing for the past eleven years: the glomeruli. This former English teacher can assure you that ‘o’ is simply a connective between the two parts of the word. ‘Sclerosis’ is a term you may have heard of in relation to the disease of the same name, the one in which the following occurs (according to Encarta Dictionary):

“the hardening and thickening of body tissue as a result of unwarranted growth, degeneration of nerve fibers, or deposition of minerals, especially calcium.”

Wait a minute. When I first started writing about CKD, I approached NephCure Foundation… not being certain what it was, but seeing Neph in its name. They were kind enough to ask me to guest blog for them on 8/21/11. By the way, as of August 15, 2014, NephCure Foundation became NephCure Kidney International. That makes the connection to our kidneys much more clear.

Back to FSGS. The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ offers us this information:

“How is FSGS Diagnosed?

FSGS is diagnosed with renal biopsy (when doctors examine a tiny portion of the kidney tissue), however, because only some sections of the glomeruli are affected, the biopsy can sometimes be inconclusive.

What are the Symptoms of FSGS?

Many people with FSGS have no symptoms at all.  When symptoms are present the most common include:

Proteinuria – Large amounts of protein ‘spilling’ into the urine

Edema – Swelling in parts of the body, most noticeable around the eyes, hands and feet, and abdomen which causes sudden weight gain.

Low Blood Albumin Levels because the kidneys are removing albumin instead of returning it to the blood

High Cholesterol in some cases

High Blood Pressure in some cases and can often be hard to treat

FSGS can also cause abnormal results of creatinine in laboratory tests. Creatinine is measured by taking a blood sample. Everyone has a certain amount of a substance called creatinine floating in his or her blood. This substance is always being produced by healthy muscles and normally the kidneys constantly filter it out and the level of creatinine stays low. But when the filters become damaged, they stop filtering properly and the level of creatinine left in the blood goes up.”

Whoa! Look at all the terms we’ve used again and again in the last eleven years of SlowItDownCKD’s weekly blog: proteinuria, edema, albumin, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and creatinine. This is definitely something that we, as CKD patients, should know about.

Okay. Let’s say you are diagnosed with FSGS. Now what? The National Kidney Organization at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/focal was helpful here:

How is FSGS treated?

The type of treatment you get depends on the cause. Everyone is different and your doctor will make a treatment plan that is right for your type of FSGS. Usually, treatments for FSGS include:

  • Corticosteroids (often called “steroids”)
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs
  • Diuretics
  • Diet change

Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs: These medications are used to calm your immune system (your body’s defense system) and stop it from attacking your glomeruli.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs: These are blood pressure medications used to reduce protein loss and control blood pressure.”

Diuretics: These medications help your body get rid of excess fluid and swelling. These can be used to lower your blood pressure too.

Diet changes:  Some diet changes may be needed, such as reducing salt (sodium) and protein in your food choices to lighten the load of wastes on the kidneys.”

I think we need another definition here. Yep, it’s Plasmapheresis. Back to the Encarta Dictionary.

“a process in which blood taken from a patient is treated to extract the cells and corpuscles, which are then added to another fluid and returned to the patient’s body.”

Let’s go back to The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ for a succinct summary of FSGS Facts.

“More than 5400 patients are diagnosed with FSGS every year, however, this is considered an underestimate because:

  • a limited number of biopsies are performed
  • the number of FSGS cases are rising more than any other cause of Nephrotic Syndrome…

NephCure estimates that there are currently 19,306 people living with ESRD due to FSGS…, in part because it is the most common cause of steroid resistant Nephrotic Syndrome in children,… and it is the second leading cause of kidney failure in children…

NephCure estimates that people of African ancestry are at a five times higher diagnosis rate of FSGS…

About half of FSGS patients who do not respond to steroids go into ESRD each year, requiring dialysis or transplantation…

Approximately 1,000 FSGS patients a year receive kidney transplants… however, within hours to weeks after a kidney transplant, FSGS returns in approximately 30-40% of patients….”

As prevalent and serious as this sounds, please remember that FSGS is a rare kidney disease. Knowing what we now know just may help you keep your eyes open for it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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