IgA nephropathy (nuh-FROP-uh-thee), also known as Berger's disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in your kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, may hamper your kidneys' ability to filter wastes from your blood.
IgA nephropathy usually progresses slowly over many years, but the course of the disease in each person is uncertain. Some people leak blood in their urine without developing problems, some eventually achieve complete remission, and others develop end-stage kidney failure.
No cure exists for IgA nephropathy, but certain medications can slow its course. Keeping your blood pressure under control and reducing your cholesterol levels also slow disease progression.
IgA nephropathy care at Mayo Clinic
IgA nephropathy usually doesn't cause symptoms in the early stages. The disease can go unnoticed for decades and is sometimes first suspected when routine tests reveal protein and red blood cells in your urine that can't be seen without a microscope (microscopic hematuria).
Signs and symptoms of IgA nephropathy when kidney function is impaired include:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice blood in your urine. Urinary bleeding may be caused by strenuous exercise, some foods, medications or a urinary tract infection.
But prolonged or repeated bleeding may indicate a serious medical problem and should always be evaluated. Also see your doctor if you develop sudden swelling in your hands and feet.
Your kidneys are two bean-shaped, fist-sized organs located at the small of your back, one on each side of your spine. Each kidney contains tiny blood vessels (glomeruli) that filter waste, excess water and other substances from your blood as they pass through your kidneys. The filtered blood re-enters your bloodstream, while the waste material passes into your bladder and out of your body when you urinate.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is an antibody that plays a key role in your immune system by attacking invading pathogens and fighting infections. But in IgA nephropathy, this antibody collects in the glomeruli, causing inflammation (glomerulonephritis) and gradually affecting their filtering ability.
Researchers don't know exactly what causes IgA deposits in the kidneys, but these conditions or factors may be associated with the development of IgA nephropathy:
IgA nephropathy is often detected after you notice blood in your urine or when a routine test shows you have protein or blood in your urine. These could be signs of several types of kidney disease. To identify your problem, these tests may be performed:
The course of IgA nephropathy varies from person to person. Some people have the disease for years with few problems. In fact, many cases may go undiagnosed. Other people develop one or more of the following complications:
Because the cause of IgA nephropathy isn't known, it's not possible to prevent it. But if you have a family history of IgA nephropathy, talk with your doctor to find out what steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy, such as reducing high blood pressure and keeping your cholesterol at healthy levels.
To help keep your kidneys healthier:
Coping with severe forms of IgA nephropathy can be challenging. But you don't have to do it alone. If you have questions or need guidance, talk with a member of your health care team.
You might also benefit from joining a support group, which can provide both empathetic listening and helpful information. To find out about support groups in your area that deal with kidney disease, ask your doctor. Or contact the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) to learn about PEERS Lending Support, a national, telephone-based peer support program from NKF. Call 855-653-7337 to participate.
Although the exact cause of IgA nephropathy is unknown, these factors may increase your risk of developing this condition: