Information for Patients and Families

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Minimal Change Disease (MCD)

What is Minimal Change Disease?

Minimal Change Disease is the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in children. Minimal Change Disease is the diagnosis given when a patient has nephrotic syndrome and the kidney biopsy reveals little or no change to the structure of the kidney filters (glomeruli) or the surrounding kidney tissue. Tiny drops of a fatty substance called a lipid may be present, but no scarring has taken place within the kidney.

Who gets Minimal Change Disease?

Children of all ages and even adults can get Minimal Change Disease, though it mostly affects young children under the age of 5. Boys are twice as likely to have it as girls.

What causes Minimal Change Disease?

The cause is not known but researchers are actively trying to learn more. 

What are some of the symptoms of Minimal Change Disease?

The most common symptom is swelling around the eyes, face, abdomen and legs. A person with Minimal Change Disease may make less urine, gain weight and become swollen during active phases of the disease.

How is Minimal Changes Disease diagnosed?

With information obtained from blood tests, urine tests and a kidney biopsy, a physician can determine if a patient has Minimal Change Disease.

What is the treatment for Minimal Change Disease?

Usually the doctor will prescribe a drug called prednisone or prednisolone. This drug will help to stop the loss of protein in the urine and increase the amount of urine expelled from the body. Most patients will improve on this drug after several weeks of treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the long-term outlook for a child with Minimal Change Disease?

It is important to remember that most children and adults with this disease will not suffer long term kidney damage. If the disease does not recur for three years after the first spell, there is a good chance that it will not return. While some people will have only one attack of the disease, most children and adults will have at least two episodes. Even though there is no specific cure, most children will eventually "outgrow" Minimal Change Disease, with fewer and fewer episodes through the years until it no longer returns.

What if a person with minimal change disease is treated with prednisone and it doesn’t work?

If prednisone does not work or if the side effects of the medications are too uncomfortable, the doctor may recommend another kind of medicine to lower the immune system function. Your doctor can discuss in detail the other treatment options. Diuretics may be prescribed to help the the body get rid of extra salt and water.

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