What is IgA Nephropathy?

IgA nephropathy (also known as Berger’s disease) is a kidney disease that happens when IgA build up in the kidneys, causing inflammation that damages kidney tissues. The buildup of IgA deposits inflames and damages the tiny filtering units, causing the kidneys to leak blood and protein into the urine. The damage may lead to scarring that progress slowly over many years to end-stage kidney disease.

What are the symptoms of IgA nephropathy?

IgA nephropathy may have no symptoms; it can be silent for years or even decades. Once symptoms appear, the most common one is hematuria, or blood in the urine. The amount of blood may be visible with the naked eye that urine may turn pink or the color of tea or cola, or even dark bloody urine. Sometimes amount of blood is so small that your doctor may detect it during a routine screening.

Are there tests for IgA nephropathy? Yes. Your doctor or nurse will ask about your symptoms and do an exam. Other tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

If these tests show you have kidney damage, your doctor might do a test called a "kidney biopsy." For this test, he or she takes a small sample of tissue from your kidney to look at under the microscope. Usually, the doctor will get this sample by inserting a needle straight through the skin in the back and into the kidney.

How can I know if I am at risk?

Anyone at any age can get IgA nephropathy although it’s more common in certain groups. A person may be more likely to develop IgA nephropathy if person:

  • has a family history of IgA nephropathy
  • is male in his teens to late 30s
  • is Asian or Caucasian

In some cases, it can develop after a child or young adult has a viral infection of the upper respiratory or gastrointestinal tracts.

If you find blood in the urine, talk to your doctor immediately. 

How can IgA Nephropathy be treated?

IgA nephropathy cannot be prevented and has no cure but there is treatment that helps to slow down the progression of the kidney disease. Some people are able to live with the disease without many complications. But some people who do get IgA nephropathy may progress to End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) over decades.

If your blood and urine tests show that your kidneys are not damaged, you might not need treatment. But you should get blood and urine tests at least once a year to check how well your kidneys are working.

If your blood or urine tests show signs of kidney damage, you might need to take medicines. These can include:

  • ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers – These medicines lower blood pressure and help protect the kidney from further damage.
  • Statins – These medicines lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. That's important because people with kidney damage have a high risk of these problems.
  • Steroids – These medicines help reduce inflammation in the kidneys. That's important because inflammation can cause scars to form in the kidneys.
  • Fish oil – This fish oil is different from the fish oil you can get at a health food store. The fish oil you get from your doctor is prescription-strength fish oil. It might help reduce inflammation in the kidneys.

Your doctor will work with you to help treat your condition.

Disclaimer: The UCLA Health System cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information. The information is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. Please speak to your Physician before making any changes.