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Bright's Disease - Hereditary, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on January 7, 2014

What is Bright's Disease?

Bright’s disease is an old term used to describe a group of disease that involves the kidney. The term Bright’s disease was named after Dr. Richard Bright who first described the disease during the 19th century. The lack of knowledge in terms of the clear description and function of the kidney during the early 19th century used the term Bright’s disorder until it was replaced with the modern name of Nephritis. Both the acute and chronic are now considered as Bright’s disease as the kidney condition has now a more defined etiology.

Bright’s disease is defined as an inflammation in the structure of the kidney responsible for urine production. The glomeruli and the nephrons are the kidney structures responsible for producing urine and are involved in the process of Bright’s disease. The nephron is the structural unit of the kidney that actually produces urine during the process of waste removal in the body and removal of excess substances in the blood. The glomeruli on the other hand are the small cluster of blood vessels that is responsible for filtering the blood.

Nephritis or glomerulonephritis is the modern medical term for Bright’s disease which includes both acute and chronic. Nephritis is a kidney disease characterized by an inflammation in the internal structures of the kidney.


Nephritis can occur either as rapid or slow and progressive. The sudden onset of nephritis is known as acute nephritis while the slow and progressive onset is termed as chronic nephritis.

Both types of nephritis have common symptoms that resulted from inflammation in the internal structures of the kidney specifically the glomeruli that subsequently result to fluid buildup in the body. The common symptoms of Bright's disease include the following:

  • Edema or swelling of the face, eyes, hands, arms, feet and legs
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dark colored or cloudy urine due to blood and protein buildup
  • Enlarged veins in the neck resulting from an increase in the blood pressure
  • Distended abdomen from fluid buildup
  • Palpable enlarged liver

Various generalized symptoms affecting the whole body can also result from Bright’s disease and the symptoms are:

  • Development of rash on the body
  • Visual impairment or blurred vision
  • Onset of fever
  • General feeling of illness
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Cough with pinkish and frothy mucus
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion

The sudden onset of nephritis may progress to chronic type which is rather a serious condition characterized by a deterioration in the function of the glomeruli of the kidney. The progression is potential for the end-stage renal failure and manifests with symptoms such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden and unexplained loss of weight
  • Episodes of nose bleeding
  • Blood contained in the vomit or in the stool
  • Itching in almost the whole body part
  • Muscle cramps
  • Frequent need to urinate especially during the night
  • Urine is foamy in appearance
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Change in skin pigmentation which may be brownish or yellowish
  • Seizure attacks
  • Delirium
  • Loss of consciousness or coma


Inflammation in the internal structure of the kidneys is implicated in both types of nephritis or Bright’s disease. The symptoms are mainly the result of fluid buildup including blood and protein buildup in the urine. The inflammation is mainly due to various causes that directly affects the internal structure of the kidneys specifically the nephrons and the glomeruli.

Allergic reaction to foreign substances and medications usually cause the kidney and its structures inflame often as an immediate response of the body.

Low levels of potassium in the blood can result to a dysfunction in the regulation of metabolism and many bodily functions including the part of the kidneys responsible for urine production.

Medications in prolonged period can result in damage in the tissues of the kidney which can result to its inflammation as a response of the body.

Urinary tract infection is precedent to Bright’s disease as a result of infection elevating to the kidneys and its internal structures.

Infection either bacteria or other pathogens can reach the kidney and its structure once the infection has reached the blood and circulate in the body affecting all the vital organs including that of the kidney.

Infectious diseases such as pneumonia, measles, hepatitis and mononucleosis can result to Bright’s disease.


Bright’s disease was historically treated with laxatives and diuretics as the exact cause of the disease was previously unknown. The modern classification and identification of the cause of kidney disease has brought various method of treatment that depends on the underlying cause of the disease.

Bright’s disease in acute form was also historically treated with warm baths and bloodletting to reduce the blood pressure. Chronic Bright’s disease on the other hand has no successful treatment. The treatment for chronic type depends on the underlying cause and the goal of treatment is to control and relieve the symptoms.

Is Bright's disease hereditary?

Bright’s disease is hereditary and is considered as one of the most common genetic diseases. The pattern of genetic inheritance can either be autosomal dominant or can be recessive. The disease is believed to be the result of infection although Bright’s disease is mostly implicated in autoimmune disorder that allows the immune system to fight its own body including the healthy tissues that trigger an inflammation as a response of the body.


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    • profile image

      Ruth Eisen 

      3 years ago

      Can untreated gonorrhea cause Bright's Disease? Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930) contracted gonorrhea at age 28 and had chronic problems all of his life from it (there was no cure for gonorrhea back then). Did it cause his death from Bright Disease in 1930, at the age of 84?

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      What are the after effects if the bright disease is cured? Does it inhibits the growth of the child?

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      My mother just lost her battle. She made it to 62 and was diagnosed at 16. My whole life I watched her suffer in pain and sickness as she had no immune system left. Good luck to all families that have this curse and remember if its in your family history educate your children on how important it is to stay on top of it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Need to know more about brights disease


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