What is Kidney IgA Nephropathy?

One of the most common forms of kidney disease in the world is IgA Nephropathy.  This disease occurs when deposits of Immunoglobulin A build up in the kidneys.  These are a normal part of the immune system that helps your body get rid of infections.  People with Kidney IgA Nephropathy have a defective version of immunoglobulin A.  The defective IgA forms chains that get stuck in the kidneys and cause infections that can eventually lead to end-stage kidney failure and the need for a transplant for a person to continue to live.

It’s Not Always as Dramatic as it Sounds

Kidney IgA Nephropathy affects millions of people worldwide.  This disease is a lifelong disease that for most people doesn’t progress to anything very serious at all.  Treatment for this disease typically involves controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels with medications.  Some people with IgA Nephropathy will eventually need a kidney transplant, but that’s not the norm.  Most will be fine by watching their diet and using the proper medications to avoid a build-up of defective IgA chains in the kidneys that can cause the disease to progress farther.

Signs of Kidney IgA Nephropathy

If you have this disease, the most common symptom is blood in the urine.  This could be a very small amount of blood at first and might not be noticeable.  Patients ages 15 to 35 are the most common age group where this symptom occurs, but older patients may live with this disease for a long time without ever having a symptom.   Other signs of the disease include swelling of the hands and feet, high blood pressure, and foamy urine which shows an excess of protein in the urine.  If you have any of these symptoms, you need to consult a doctor right away.

What Causes Kidney IgA Nephropathy?

An immunoglobulin or antibody is a large protein that the immune system uses to kill harmful bacteria and viruses.  One type of immunoglobulin is IgA.  If the IgA doesn’t work properly, instead of binding only to bacteria and viruses, the IgA mistakenly attaches to other IgA molecules and creates a long chain.  This chain circulates in the blood and eventually is deposited in the kidney’s filters where they can cause an inflammatory reaction in the body.  These inflammations can cause problems and lead to kidney damage.

Get Diagnosed

If you’re experiencing any of the signs of Kidney IgA Nephropathy, you need to see a doctor for a full diagnosis.  Routine tests can reveal signs of red blood cells in your urine and a full medical and family history could show that you’re in a high-risk category for this disease.  Going forward, you may need medication to control blood pressure and cholesterol, could need regular visits to the doctor, and eventually might need to be on the kidney transplant list.  If you think you might have issues with your kidneys or your see blood in your urine, make sure you see your doctor right away.