IgA nephropathy is a kidney disorder caused by deposits of the protein immunoglobulin A (IgA) inside the glomeruli (filters) within the kidney. These glomeruli (the singular form is glomerulus), normally filter wastes and excess water from the blood and send them to the bladder as urine. The IgA protein prevents this filtering process, leading to blood and protein in the urine and swelling in the hands and feet. This chronic kidney disease may progress over a period of 10 to 20 years. If this disorder leads to end-stage renal disease, the patient must go on dialysis or receive a kidney transplant.
The IgA protein is a normal part of the body's system to protect against disease (the immune system). We do not know what causes IgA deposits in the glomeruli. But, since IgA nephropathy may run in families, genetic factors probably contribute to the disease.
Creatinine is a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscle tissue. As creatinine is produced, it's filtered through the kidneys and excreted in urine. Doctors measure the blood creatinine level as a test of kidney function. The kidneys' ability to handle creatinine is called the creatinine clearance rate, which helps to estimate the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) -- the rate of blood flow through the kidneys.
Kidney disease usually cannot be cured. Once the tiny filtering units are damaged, they cannot be repaired. Treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and preventing complications. One complication is high blood pressure, which further damages glomeruli.
Some patients may benefit from limiting protein in their diet to reduce the buildup of waste in the blood. Patients with IgA nephropathy often have high cholesterol. Reducing cholesterol -- through diet, medication, or both -- appears to help slow the progression of IgA nephropathy.
For More Information
American Kidney Fund 6110 Executive Boulevard Rockville, MD 20852 800-638-8299
IgA Nephropathy Support Network 964 Brown Avenue Huntington Valley, PA 19006 215-663-0536
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Information Center P.O. Box 30105 Bethesda, MD 20824-0105 NHLBIinfo@rover.nhlbi.nih.gov 301-592-8573
National Kidney Foundation 30 East 33rd Street New York, NY 10016 800-622-9010
Physicians and patients interested in a placebo-controlled, multi-center trial evaluating alternate-day prednisone and fish oilsupplements in young patients with IgA nephropathy should call the Central Office of the Southwest Pediatric Nephrology Group at 1-800-345-IGAN.
WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health
"The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
and Kidney Diseases of The National Institutes of Health. Publication: IgA
Nephropathy. February 3, 1998. Last revised June 24, 1999. (Online)