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.
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
IgA Nephropathy Support Network
964 Brown Avenue
Huntington Valley, PA 19006
National Kidney Foundation
30 East 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016
Physicians and patients interested in a placebo-controlled, multi-center trial evaluating alternate-day prednisone and fish oil supplements in young patients with IgA nephropathy should call the Central Office of the Southwest Pediatric Nephrology Group at 1-800-345-IGAN.