What is IgA nephropathy?
IgA nephropathy is a chronic kidney disease. This disease progresses over 10 to 20 years, and can lead to end-stage renal disease. It is caused by deposits of the protein immunoglobulin A (IgA) inside the filters (glomeruli) in the kidney.
Generally these glomeruli filter waste and extra water from the blood and send them to the bladder as urine. Though, the IgA protein prevents this filtering process. This may lead to the following:
- Blood and protein in the urine (hematuria and proteinuria)
- Swelling in the hands and feet (edema)
What causes IgA nephropathy?
The IgA protein is a normal part of the human body's immune system. It is not known what causes IgA deposits in the glomeruli. In more than 15% of affected families, it is inherited.
Some people who inherit the gene may not have any symptoms, but could pass the gene on. Men are affected more often than women.
How is IgA nephropathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam. Other tests may include:
- Blood pressure checks
- Cholesterol test
- Checking for protein in the urine
- Checking for protein in the blood
- Kidney biopsy (to identify IgA deposits). To perform this test, a sample of kidney tissue is extracted and examined under a microscope.
What are the symptoms of IgA nephropathy?
IgA nephropathy is a silent disease that can go inherited for years. It can occur at any age, but symptoms most often start before the age of 40.
The most common symptom is blood in the urine (hematuria). This condition takes many years to progress to the stage where it causes problems. These further includes swelling, recurrent upper respiratory infections, or intestinal disease.
People with IgA nephropathy may also have flank pain and a low fever. Very rarely, blood pressure can become dangerously high.
What is the treatment for IgA nephropathy?
Your doctor will figure out the best treatment based on:
- How old you are
- Your overall health and past health
- How sick you are
- How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- How long will the condition last
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- Blood pressure medicines, like ACE inhibitors - These medicines help in lowering down the blood pressure and protect the kidneys. They also help to prevent protein loss in the urine. Pregnant women should not take these medicines.
- Corticosteroids - These reduce inflammation and scar tissue inside of the kidney.
- Prescription strength fish oil - This helps to reduce inflammation and damage within the kidney
- Cholesterol-lowering medicines such as statins - People with kidney damage are at a higher risk for stroke and heart attack. Controlling cholesterol can help reduce the risk for both.
- Diet changes to reduce fat and cholesterol. These can cause build-up of plaque in the kidney arteries and further damage to the kidneys.
- Stop smoking
- Exercise and maintaining a normal body weight
- High fluid intake