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IgA Nephropathy

(Immunoglobulin A Nephropathy; Berger’s Disease)

Pronounced: ne-frop-a-thee


IgA nephropathy is a disorder of the kidney. It may start with minor changes in the kidneys, but it can lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.

Anatomy of the Kidney

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

IgA nephropathy is caused by a buildup of the IgA protein in the kidneys. IgA proteins help the body fight infections. There are more of these proteins when you have an infection like the cold or flu.

The protein buildup can damage the filters of the kidneys. These filters are needed to clean the blood as it passes through. If the filters are damaged, then the kidneys are not able to clean the blood. Minor damage to the filters will not cause any changes. Major damage will worsen your health. IgA nephropathy can also cause some blood and protein to leak into the urine.

Genetics may play a role in the buildup of IgA proteins in the kidney.

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that increase may your chance of IgA nephropathy include:

Symptoms    TOP

Early stages of IgA nephropathy rarely have symptoms.

The first sign of IgA nephropathy is often blood in the urine. It often occurs after an infection like a cold. Small amounts of blood in the urine may only be detected with a test. Larger amounts of blood in the urine can make the urine a pink or cola color.

Later stage symptoms may also include:

  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Repeated upper respiratory infections
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

Treatment    TOP

There is no cure for IgA nephropathy. The goal of treatment is to slow damage to the kidneys. Your doctor will also make a plan to manage related symptoms, such as high blood pressure.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:


Depending on your symptoms and overall health, your doctor may suggest:

  • Medications to help control blood pressure and decrease protein loss in the urine
  • Cholesterol lowering medication
  • Corticosteroids to decrease inflammation in the body
  • Medications to suppress the immune system

Dietary Changes

Your doctor may recommend certain changes to your diet. The changes will depend on your overall health and your kidney function. Some changes may include:

  • Controlling protein in the diet by limiting or avoiding:
    • Most meats and dairy products
    • Gluten—protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats
  • Controlling salt in the diet
  • Dietary changes to manage blood cholesterol levels

Your doctor may recommend certain supplements like fish oil. Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements.

Lifestyle Changes    TOP

Exercise can help with overall health. It can also help manage cholesterol and blood pressure.

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit.

Kidney Support    TOP

Dialysis takes over the job of the kidneys if they are not able to work well. It cannot cure the kidney damage, but it will help you feel better and decrease symptoms like high blood pressure.

A kidney transplant may be needed when illness has progressed and the kidneys have failed.

Prevention    TOP

The cause of IgA nephropathy is not clear, so there are no known steps to prevent it.

Tell your doctor if you have a family history of IgA nephropathy. You and your doctor can watch for signs of the disease and manage issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol.


IgA Nephropathy Support Network
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Kidney Foundation of Canada
The Foundation for IgA Nephropathy


IgA nephropathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated February 1, 2016. Accessed June 1, 2016.
IgA nephropathy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 2015. Accessed June 1, 2016.
IgA nephropathy. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: Accessed June 1, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 5/28/2014

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