Health Information

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis


Segmental glomerulosclerosis; Focal sclerosis with hyalinosis

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 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.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • 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, bisphonsphonates, 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

    • 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 issue swelling (edema) and high blood pressure. Signs of kidney (renal) failure and excess fluid may develop as the condition gets worse.

    Tests may include:

    • Kidney biopsy
    • Kidney function tests (blood and urine)
    • Urinalysis
    • Urine microscopy
    • Urine protein
  • 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.

    In general, treatments may include:

    • Antibiotics to control infections
    • Anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the immune response
    • Dialysis
    • Fluid restriction
    • Kidney transplant
    • Low-fat diet
    • Low- or moderate-protein diet (1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day)
    • Medicines to treat high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels
    • Salt-reduced diet
    • Vitamin D supplements
  • Outlook (Prognosis)

    More than half of those with focal or segmental glomerulosclerosis develop chronic kidney failure within 10 years.

  • Possible Complications

    • Chronic kidney failure
    • End-stage kidney disease
    • Infection
    • Malnutrition
    • Nephrotic syndrome
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your doctor if you develop symptoms of this condition, especially if there is:

    • Fever
    • Pain with urination
    • Decreased urine output
  • Prevention

    No prevention is known.

Related Information

  Reflux nephropathy...Nephrotic syndrome...Protein urine test...Chronic kidney dis...End-stage kidney d...    


Appel GB, Radhakrishnan J. Glomerular disorders and nephrotic syndromes. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 123.

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: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 31.

Korbet S. Treatment of Primary FSGS in Adults. JASN. 2012;23(11):1769-1776.


Review Date: 7/2/2013  

Reviewed By: Melissa B Bleicher, MD, Division of Renal, Electrolyte, and Hypertension, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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