National Kidney Month: What to know about IgA nephropathy

Each year in March, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases puts on National Kidney Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about kidney health and conditions. Chronic kidney disease, a grouping of conditions that damage the kidneys, impacts around 37 million Americans, and millions of others are considered to be at an increased risk.

"For all types of kidney disease, increasing treatment options and finding potential cures is a key focus. As Michael Spigler, Vice President of Patient Support and Education at the American Kidney Fund states, “Clinical trials are a vital resource for kidney disease patients. Not only can individuals receive personalized care and access to potential treatments, but every medical study advances our ultimate goal: a world without kidney disease.”

This National Kidney Month, we’re shining the spotlight on IgA nephropathy (IgAN), one of the most common kidney diseases not caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. This is a type of kidney disease with no known cause or cure — but through increasing awareness and advancing research, we are hopeful that we can impact the lives of patients living with this condition.

An overview of IgA nephropathy

IgAN is a specific type of kidney disease that occurs when there is an excess of immunoglobulin A proteins deposited into the glomeruli of the kidneys. This blocks the glomeruli’s ability to filter waste and excess water out of the blood, causing the kidneys to work harder than usual. It is not known what causes IgA nephropathy, and while some patients inheret it, this is not always the case. Most often, it is found in Caucasian and Asian individuals in their teens to late 30s, and men are impacted more than women. 

Living with IgA nephropathy

As with other types of kidney disease, there are rarely symptoms in the early stages of IgAN. As the condition progresses, hematuria (blood in the urine) and albuminuria (protein in the urine) will often be the first symptoms, but high blood pressure and swelling of the hands and feet can also occur. To determine if an individual has IgAN or another type of kidney condition, a kidney biopsy must be performed in order to check for deposits of the immunoglobulin protein in the tissue. 

Treatments for IgA Nephropathy

Because there is no known cure, IgA nephropathy treatment plans typically focus on slowing the progression of the condition. This process will typically include a combination of steroids, immunosuppressants, ACE inhibitors, diet changes, and supplements, which can all work to ease the burden placed upon the kidneys. Additionally, clinical trials are often an option for kidney disease patients who are interested in advancing the research of potential new treatment options.

Like all types of treatment, potential treatments and cures for IgAN need information from clinical trials to proceed — and this requires that patients take part. To learn more about clinical trials that are enrolling now, use the button below.