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Etiology, clinical features, and diagnosis of minimal change disease in adults

Alain Meyrier, MD
Jai Radhakrishnan, MD, MS
Section Editors
Richard J Glassock, MD, MACP
Fernando C Fervenza, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Albert Q Lam, MD


Minimal change disease (MCD) is a major cause of nephrotic syndrome (approximately 90 percent) in children and in a minority of adults (approximately 10 percent). MCD and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) are both examples of pathogenic mechanisms that primarily affect the podocyte ("podocytopathies"). These entities are not characterized by immune deposits, but there may be a role for circulating factors in the pathogenesis of both diseases. (See 'Pathogenesis' below and 'Primary MCD versus primary FSGS' below.)

The pathogenesis, etiology, causes, and diagnosis of MCD in adults will be reviewed here. The treatment of MCD as well as the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of FSGS are discussed separately. (See "Treatment of minimal change disease in adults" and "Epidemiology, classification, and pathogenesis of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis" and "Treatment of primary focal segmental glomerulosclerosis".)


MCD is the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in children, with variations in incidence based upon age [1-3] (see "Etiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome in children", section on 'Idiopathic nephrotic syndrome'):

Among children under age 10 years who present with idiopathic nephrotic syndrome, MCD is the underlying disease in approximately 90 percent.

Among children over age 10 years, MCD accounts for only 50 percent of cases with an increased percentage of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) in this age group.

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 30, 2017.
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