Definition

IgA nephropathy is a kidney disease. It may start with minor changes in the kidneys, but it can lead to more serious problems such as kidney failure.

Anatomy of the Kidney
Glomerulonephritis
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Causes

A buildup of a protein called IgA causes IgA nephropathy. These proteins help the body fight infections. Their numbers go up when you get sick.

The protein buildup can hurt the tiny tubules of the kidneys. The tubules filter the blood and make urine. Protein buildup makes it harder for the kidneys to work the right way. This causes blood and proteins to leak into the urine.

Your genes may play a role in the buildup of IgA proteins.

Risk Factors

Your risk is higher if you have:

Symptoms

Symptoms are not present in the early stages of the disease.

Blood in the urine is often the first sign. It usually happens after an infection such as a cold. Only a test can find small amounts of blood. Larger amounts of blood will turn urine the color of pink or cola.

Other later stage symptoms:

  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Repeated colds
  • Low fever
  • Pain in the side or back

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to IgA nephropathy. You may also have:

  • Urine tests—to look for blood, certain proteins, or other markers
  • Blood tests—to look for certain proteins or other markers
  • Kidney biopsy—to confirm the diagnosis

Treatment

The goal of care is to slow the progress of IgA nephropathy and limit kidney damage. You will need to treat other health problems that cause stress on your kidneys such as high blood pressure.

Care may involve:

Medicines

Medicines help control:

  • Blood pressure
  • Protein loss in urine
  • Cholesterol
  • Inflammation in the body
  • The effects of the immune system

Dietary Changes

Certain types of food can cause stress on your kidneys. You may need to monitor your intake of:

  • Protein
  • Salt
  • Cholesterol

Your doctor may advise taking dietary supplements such as fish oil. Don’t start taking them on your own. They can interfere with other medicines you take.

Lifestyle Changes

Daily exercise will help you feel better. It can also help with controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can learn to quit.

Kidney Support

If kidney damage has progressed, care may involve:

  • Dialysis—a machine works for your kidneys by filtering your blood
  • A kidney transplant—needed when the kidneys fail and cannot be fixed

Prevention

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.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 06/2018 -
  • Update Date: 06/05/2018 -