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What is IgA Nephropathy?

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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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IgA nephropathy, or Berger’s disease, is a medical condition that causes a protein called IgA to accumulate in a patient’s kidneys. The body uses the IgA protein to fight infections in many cases. This disorder typically restricts the ability of the kidneys to filter excessive water and waste products from the blood. Protein and blood can leak into a patient’s urine because of this condition.

People with early IgA nephropathy usually have no symptoms, and years or decades may elapse before symptoms develop. Blood in the urine is often the first sign of this condition. Urine that is tea-colored or cola-colored may develop with this disease, especially after an upper respiratory infection. Swelling of the feet and hands as well as pain in the side and high blood pressure have been reported in some cases of this disorder.

Individuals between the ages of 20 and 40, men and individuals with a family history of IgA nephropathy usually have an increased risk of developing this disease. The cause of IgA nephropathy is generally not known, but some instances of this disease may be associated with medical conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver, celiac disease and bacterial infections. Physicians may use blood tests and a kidney biopsy to assist them in diagnosing this medical condition. Blood levels of IgA and creatinine can be abnormally high in some people with this disease.

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Physicians are usually not able to cure IgA nephropathy, although some patients may experience long-term remission from the disease. Doctors typically treat patients with medications to slow progression of the disease and treat its complications. High blood pressure that results from this condition may be treated with drugs such as angiotensin receptor-blockers (ARB) or angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Prednisone or other corticosteroids may be useful in treating some severe cases of this type of nephropathy. Fish oil supplements with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E supplements have been used to slow progression of this disorder in some cases.

Kidney disease and kidney failure are common complications of IgA nephropathy. The accumulation of IgA in the kidneys often reduces the ability of the kidneys to filter dangerous wastes from the body. Patients with kidney disease may receive hemodialysis treatments that artificially filter waste products from their blood. Some individuals with chronic liver failure receive permanent dialysis or a kidney transplant to keep them alive. Low blood-protein levels and high cholesterol levels are possible in some patients with this condition due to the development of nephrotic syndrome.

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