IgA nephropathy is a disorder of the kidney. It may start with minor changes in the kidneys, but it can lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.
Anatomy of the Kidney
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IgA nephropathy is caused by a buildup of the IgA protein in the kidneys. IgA proteins help the body fight infections. There are more of these proteins when you have an infection like the cold or flu.
The protein buildup can damage the filters of the kidneys. These filters are needed to clean the blood as it passes through. If the filters are damaged, then the kidneys are not able to clean the blood. Minor damage to the filters will not cause any changes. Major damage will worsen your health. IgA nephropathy can also cause some blood
to leak into the urine.
Genetics may play a role in the buildup of IgA proteins in the kidney.
Factors that increase may your chance of IgA nephropathy include:
gastrointestinal such as cirrhosis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease
infectious disease such as HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis
pulmonary disease such as bronchiolitis obliterans, small cell lung cancer
seronegative arthritis Family historyGastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac diseaseCirrhosis of the liverHenoch schoenlein purpura
Early stages of IgA nephropathy rarely have symptoms.
The first sign of IgA nephropathy is often blood in the urine. It often occurs after an infection like a cold. Small amounts of blood in the urine may only be detected with a test. Larger amounts of blood in the urine can make the urine a pink or cola color.
Later stage symptoms may also include: Swelling of the hands and feetRepeated upper respiratory infectionsFatigueMuscle painFever
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include: Urine testsBlood testsBiopsy
There is no cure for IgA nephropathy. The goal of treatment is to slow damage to the kidneys. Your doctor will also make a plan to manage related symptoms, such as high blood pressure.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Depending on your symptoms and overall health, your doctor may suggest: Medications to help control blood pressure and decrease protein loss in the urineCholesterol lowering medicationCorticosteroids to decrease inflammation in the body
Medications to suppress the immune system
Your doctor may recommend certain changes to your diet. The changes will depend on your overall health and your kidney function. Some changes may include:
Controlling protein in the diet by limiting or avoiding:
Most meats and dairy productsGluten—protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oatsControlling salt in the dietDietary changes to manage blood cholesterol levels
Your doctor may recommend certain supplements like fish oil. Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements.
Exercise can help with overall health. It can also help manage cholesterol and blood pressure.
Don't smoke. If you
smoke, talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit.
takes over the job of the kidneys if they are not able to work well. It cannot cure the kidney damage, but it will help you feel better and decrease symptoms like high blood pressure.
may be needed when illness has progressed and the kidneys have failed.
The cause of IgA nephropathy is not clear, so there are no known steps to prevent it.
Tell your doctor if you have a family history of IgA nephropathy. You and your doctor can watch for signs of the disease and manage issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol.
IgA nephropathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 25, 2013. Accessed August 9, 2013.
IgA nephropathy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/kidney-disease/iga-nephropathy/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated September 2, 2010. Accessed August 9, 2013.
IgA nephropathy. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at:
https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/iganeph. Accessed August 9, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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