IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease)
IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease)
IgA nephropathy (nuh-FROP-uh-thee), also known as Berger's disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in your kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, may hamper your kidneys' ability to filter waste, excess water and electrolytes from your blood. Kidney damage may be indicated by blood and protein in your urine, high blood pressure and swollen feet.
IgA nephropathy usually progresses slowly over many years, but the course of the disease in each person is uncertain. Some people leak blood in their urine without developing problems, some eventually achieve complete remission, and 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 slow disease progression.
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 that can't be seen without a microscope (microscopic hematuria).
Signs and symptoms of IgA nephropathy when kidney function is impaired 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, excess water and other substances from your blood as they pass 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 and fighting infections. But in IgA nephropathy, this antibody collects in the glomeruli, causing inflammation (glomerulonephritis) and gradually affecting their filtering ability.
Researchers don't know exactly what causes IgA deposits in the kidneys, but these conditions or factors may be associated with the development of IgA nephropathy:
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, these factors may increase your risk of developing this condition:
The course of IgA nephropathy varies 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 primary care doctor. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating kidney disorders (nephrologist).
What you can do
Questions you might want to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
IgA nephropathy is often detected after you notice blood in your urine or when a routine test shows you have protein or blood in your urine. These could be signs of several types of kidney disease. To identify your problem, these tests may be performed:
Treatments and drugs
There's no cure for IgA nephropathy and no definitive way of knowing what course the disease will take. Some people experience complete remission and others live normal lives with low-grade blood or protein in their urine (hematuria or proteinuria).
Treatment with a number of medications can slow the progress of the disease and help you manage symptoms such as high blood pressure, protein in the urine (proteinuria), and swelling (edema) in your hands and feet.
Medications used to treat IgA nephropathy include:
The ultimate goal is to avoid the need for kidney dialysis or kidney transplantation. But in more advanced cases, dialysis or transplant may be necessary.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To help keep your kidneys healthier:
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 need guidance, talk with a member of your health care team.
You might also benefit from joining a support group, which can provide both empathetic listening and helpful information. To find out about support groups in your area that deal with kidney disease, ask your doctor. Or contact the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) to learn about PEERS Lending Support, a national, telephone-based peer support program from NKF. Call 855-653-7337 to participate.
Because the cause of IgA nephropathy isn't known, it's not possible to prevent it. But 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 healthy levels.
Last Updated: 2013-04-19
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