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IgA nephropathy

  • Overview


    IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger disease, is a kidney disease. It occurs when the kidneys accumulate a protein called immunoglobulin A (IgA) that fights germs. This leads to inflammation, causing swelling that can make it difficult for the kidneys to filter waste from the blood over time.

    IgA nephropathy typically progresses slowly over the years, but its course varies from person to person. Some people experience blood leakage into their urine without any other issues, while others may suffer complications, including kidney function loss and protein spillage into urine. Some individuals may develop kidney failure, which means the kidneys cease to work effectively enough to filter the body’s waste.

    There is no cure for IgA nephropathy, but medication can slow its progression. Some people may require treatment to decrease inflammation, reduce protein spillage into the urine, and prevent kidney failure. Such therapies may help the disease become inactive, a condition known as remission. Keeping blood pressure under control and lowering cholesterol levels can also slow the disease’s progression.

  • Symptoms


    IgA nephropathy is a disease that may not exhibit symptoms in its early stages. It may take more than ten years before any health effects become apparent. Sometimes, routine medical tests may detect signs of the disease, such as protein and red blood cells in the urine visible under a microscope.

    When symptoms of IgA nephropathy occur, they may include:
    – Cola- or tea-coloured urine due to blood. These colour changes may be noticed after a cold, sore throat, or respiratory infection.
    – Visible blood in the urine.
    – Foamy urine caused by protein leakage into the urine, referred to as proteinuria.
    – Pain felt on one or both sides of the back below the ribs.
    – Swelling in the hands and feet, known as edema.
    – High blood pressure.
    – Weakness and fatigue.

    If the disease progresses to kidney failure, symptoms may include:
    – Rashes and itchy skin.
    – Muscle cramps.
    – Upset stomach and vomiting.
    – Decreased appetite.
    – Metallic taste in the mouth.
    – Confusion.

    Kidney failure is a life-threatening condition that requires treatment. Dialysis or a kidney transplant can extend a person’s lifespan for many years.

  • When to see a doctor


    If you are experiencing IgA nephropathy symptoms, scheduling an appointment with your doctor is essential. If you observe blood in your urine, it is crucial to receive a checkup, as various conditions can cause this symptom. However, if the issue persists or does not improve, it may indicate a more severe health concern. Additionally, if you notice sudden swelling in your hands or feet, it is advisable to consult with your doctor.

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  • Causes


    The kidneys are two organs shaped like beans, measuring about the size of a fist, positioned at the lower back, with one located on each side of the spine. Each kidney has tiny blood vessels called glomeruli, which filter waste, excess water, and other substances from the blood. The purified blood then goes back into the bloodstream, while the waste products are passed into the bladder and released as urine.

    Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is a protein known as an antibody. The immune system produces IgA to combat germs and fight infections. However, IgA nephropathy is where this protein accumulates in the glomeruli. This causes inflammation and impairs their filtering function over time.

    Researchers have yet to understand the cause of IgA build-up in the kidneys fully. However, it may be linked to the following factors: genes, as IgA nephropathy is more common in some families and certain ethnic groups, such as individuals of Asian and European ancestry; liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis B and C infections; celiac disease, which is triggered by consuming gluten, a protein found in most grains; and conditions, including HIV and some bacterial infections.

  • Risk factors


    The cause of IgA nephropathy is unknown, but certain factors may increase the likelihood of developing it. The condition affects at least twice as many men as women in North America and Western Europe. It is also more prevalent in individuals of white and Asian descent than those of Black ethnicity. IgA nephropathy is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of the mid-teens and mid-30s, and it has a genetic component as it can run in families.

  • Prevention


    If you have a family history of IgA nephropathy, unfortunately, there is no way to prevent it. It’s important to discuss this with your doctor and find out what you can do to maintain your kidney health. One example is managing high blood pressure and keeping cholesterol levels in check.

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 14/08/2023