IgA nephropathy results from the body’s immune response to harmful invaders, which can affect the kidneys. 

Also known as Berger’s disease, IgA nephropathy occurs when tiny filters inside the kidneys (glomeruli) become clogged and inflamed by a buildup of immunoglobulin A (IgA). This protein is produced by the body’s immune system to help fight off viruses and bacteria. In the short term, the resulting inflammation may cause the kidneys to leak blood and protein; in the long term, it can impair the kidney’s blood-filtering function and eventually lead to end-stage renal failure.

Causes of Nephropathy

Excess IgA is sometimes found in the bloodstream following an infection. However, the precise causes of IgA nephropathy are not yet well understood by scientists in the general medical community.

Symptoms of Nephropathy

The most common signs of IgA nephropathy are:

  • Hematuria – Blood-tinged or dark-colored urine
  • Proteinuria – Foamy or bubbly urine

Diagnosis of Nephropathy

If IgA nephropathy is suspected, a physician will typically order one or more diagnostic tests, such as:

  • A urinalysis to check for blood and protein in the urine
  • A blood test to check for protein, cholesterol and waste products in the bloodstream
  • A glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test to assess kidney function
  • A kidney biopsy to check for IgA in the glomeruli

Treatments for Nephropathy

The goal of treatment for IgA nephropathy is to slow the progression of any resulting kidney damage. Some options include:

  • Corticosteroids or immunosuppressants to calm the body’s immune response
  • ACE inhibitors to control blood pressure and reduce protein loss
  • Dietary changes to help reduce the burden on the kidneys

If IgA nephropathy causes end-stage renal failure, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be required.

Tampa General Hospital is a highly respected leader in treating all forms of kidney disease, including nephropathy, and our kidney transplant program ranks among the best in the nation.