IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease)
IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease)
IgA nephropathy (nuh-FROP-uh-the) is a common kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in your kidneys. This hampers your kidneys' ability to filter waste, excess water and electrolytes from your blood. Over time, IgA nephropathy — also called Berger's disease — can lead to blood and protein in your urine, high blood pressure, and swollen hands and feet.
IgA nephropathy usually progresses slowly over many years, and although some people eventually achieve complete remission, others develop end-stage kidney failure. No cure exists for IgA nephropathy, but certain medications can slow its course.
Keeping your blood pressure under control and reducing your cholesterol levels also may help keep IgA nephropathy in check.
IgA nephropathy usually doesn't cause symptoms in the early stages. The disease can go unnoticed for decades and is sometimes first suspected when routine tests reveal protein and red blood cells in your urine.
Signs and symptoms of IgA nephropathy include:
When to see a doctor
Your kidneys are two bean-shaped, fist-sized organs located at the small of your back, one on each side of your spine. Each kidney contains tiny blood vessels (glomeruli) that filter waste and excess water from your blood as it passes through your kidneys. The filtered blood re-enters your bloodstream, while the waste material passes into your bladder and out of your body when you urinate.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is an antibody that plays a key role in your immune system by attacking invading pathogens. But in IgA nephropathy, this antibody collects in the glomeruli, gradually affecting their filtering ability.
Researchers don't know exactly what causes IgA deposits in the kidneys.
Conditions or factors that may be associated with the development of IgA nephropathy include:
Kidney cross section
All your blood flows through your kidneys, which are the key organs in the complex system that removes excess fluid and waste material from the blood. Blood that flows into your kidneys is diffused ...
Although the exact cause of IgA nephropathy is unknown, some factors may increase your risk of developing this condition:
The course of IgA nephropathy varies considerably from person to person. Some people have the disease for years with few problems. In fact, many cases may go undiagnosed. Other people develop one or more of the following complications:
Preparing for your appointment
If you have signs and symptoms of IgA nephropathy, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating kidney disorders (nephrologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Because it's hard to know what to expect from a diagnosis of IgA nephropathy, it can be helpful to take a list of questions to your appointment. For instance, you might want to know:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
If your doctor suspects IgA nephropathy, you may undergo one or more of the following tests:
Treatments and drugs
There's no cure for IgA nephropathy and no definitive way of knowing what course the disease will take in any particular person. Some people experience complete remission and others live normal lives with low-grade blood or protein in their urine (hematuria or proteinuria). But perhaps as many as half of those affected eventually go on to develop end-stage renal disease. For this reason, treatment of IgA nephropathy focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and preventing complications.
Medications used to treat IgA nephropathy include:
In more-advanced cases, kidney dialysis or even a kidney transplant may be necessary.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Some steps you can take on your own that may help keep your kidneys healthier include:
Coping and support
Coping with severe forms of IgA nephropathy can be challenging. But you don't have to do it alone. If you have questions or would like guidance, talk with a member of your health care team. You might also benefit from joining a support group, which can provide both sympathetic listening and useful information. To find out about support groups in your area that deal with kidney disease, ask your doctor. Or, contact your local chapter of the National Kidney Foundation by calling 800-622-9010.
Because the cause of IgA nephropathy isn't known, it's not possible to prevent it. If you have a family history of IgA nephropathy, talk with your doctor to find out what steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy, such as reducing high blood pressure and keeping your cholesterol at optimal levels.
Last Updated: 2010-11-13
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