What is IgA nephropathy?

IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, refers to a buildup of protein in the kidneys that causes inflammation and damage. It is a chronic kidney disease that progresses over 10 to 20 years and can eventually lead to kidney failure. 

Currently, IgA nephropathy has no specific treatment. Fortunately, healthcare providers can often delay renal damage through other types of therapies, and kidney disease clinical trials are continuously attempting to learn more about treatments that could help in the future. To learn more about IgA nephropathy, read on for our overview.

What is IgA nephropathy?

IgA nephropathy occurs when immunoglobulin A (IgA) deposits build up in the kidneys. IgA is a protein made by the immune system to protect the body from foreign bacteria or viruses, but if it begins to build up, it can cause inflammation and damage to the glomeruli in the kidneys. Because the glomeruli filter out wastes and remove fluid from the blood, the kidneys can begin to leak blood and protein in the urine when the glomeruli become irritated.

IgA nephropathy symptoms

In many cases, the symptoms of IgA nephropathy can take up to 10 years to develop, and symptoms often vary. The first symptom people typically notice is blood in the urine, but doctors may also detect protein in the urine during routine testing. Additionally, individuals often report feeling weak, experiencing cold-like symptoms, noticing swelling in the hands or feet, and having pain in the lower back.

What is the cause of IgA nephropathy?

While it is not entirely clear what causes IgA nephropathy, researchers believe that it is an autoimmune disease. Individuals with IgA nephropathy have a higher level of IgA protein but have less of the sugar type galactose in their bodies. It is believed that the body considers these low-galactose IgA particles foreign, causing the immune system to wage an attack that ultimately results in kidney damage.

How is IgA nephropathy treated?

There is currently no specific treatment for IgA nephropathy, but healthcare providers can attempt to slow the process of kidney damage with medication and diet changes. Corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs, ACE inhibitors, diet changes, and supplements are all common ways doctors will try to lessen the impact of the disease on the kidneys.

Because there is no treatment that specifically targets IgA nephropathy, clinical trials are often seeking volunteers to help researchers learn more about this condition. If you’re interested in learning more, use the button below to see what trials are currently available.