Idiopathic membranous nephropathy is one of the most commonly encountered forms of nephrotic syndrome in adults. The natural history of the disease, observed in a small sample of untreated patients, reveals that a large proportion of patients experience spontaneous remission, whereas approximately one third of them progress towards renal insufficiency, and thus require dialysis. Hence, several attempts to treat this condition have been investigated and several protocols, based on different combinations of corticosteroids and/or immunosuppressive agents, have been proposed. However, none of these protocols has been uniformly adopted by renal physicians, either because of no or limited efficacy of most of them, or due to the potential of short- and long-term untoward effects. In this review, we examine the available data on the natural course of the disease and the possibility of identifying clinical and laboratory characteristics that could help to predict the course of membranous nephropathy. We also summarise the results of the most relevant clinical trials, and offer an updated meta- analysis of treatment studies, including the latest data on cyclosporin.
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