The kidneys are vital organs that filter waste products, excess fluids, and toxins from the blood while maintaining a balance of electrolytes and fluid levels. They also play a crucial role in regulating blood pressure and producing hormones. In IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune disease, abnormal deposits of the protein IgA accumulate in the kidneys, leading to inflammation and damage. If left untreated, this can impair the kidneys’ ability to filter blood effectively, causing proteinuria, blood in urine, and kidney dysfunction.
What is IgA Nephropathy?
IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, is a kidney disorder characterised by the build-up of the immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody in the kidneys. It is the most common form of glomerulonephritis worldwide. IgA deposits cause inflammation and damage to the glomeruli, leading to blood and protein leakage in urine. The condition can progress over time, potentially resulting in chronic kidney disease. Early detection, monitoring, and management are crucial for optimal treatment outcomes.
Causes of IgA Nephropathy
Mentioned below are some of the causes of kidney disease that help to identify the root cause and help the doctor to decide on the suitable form of treatment:
- Protein Built-Up– IgA nephropathy is characterised by the accumulation of abnormal IgA antibodies in the kidneys. It is thought that these abnormal IgA antibodies trigger an inflammatory response, leading to kidney damage. The exact mechanisms of how and why abnormal IgA antibodies build up in IgA nephropathy are not fully understood. It has been found that it blocks the blood vessels of the organ. It causes inflammation of the kidney and may also damage the glomeruli. Swollen hands and feet can identify waste accumulation in the body. Immediate treatment helps to lower the symptoms, whereas procrastination in treatment can worsen the situation.
- Genetic Disorder– Studies state that 1 out of 5 cases of this medical condition is caused due to genetic disorder. Although the exact mechanism of genetic predisposition leading to IgA nephropathy is unknown, certain factors such as HLA Associations, Familial Clusterings, Immune System Dysfunction, and Abnormal IgA production contribute to this condition.
- An individual with a family history of the disease is more prone to getting affected. The condition is also known as autosomal dominant manner. Other health issues, such as liver disease, celiac disease, or the spread of infections, also increase the possibility of this kidney disorder.
- Abnormal Glycosylation- Changes in how IgA antibodies are modified, or glycosylated can affect their ability to be cleared from the body, potentially leading to their accumulation in the kidneys.
- Infections- Previous infections, particularly respiratory or gastrointestinal infections, may trigger the immune system and contribute to developing IgA nephropathy in some individuals.
Symptoms of IgA Nephropathy
Mentioned below are some of the signs and symptoms of the kidney disorder that are helpful in the easy identification of the disease in its initial stages:
- Bloody Urine– One of kidney disease’s initial and visible symptoms is blood in the urine. It can happen due to leaking and damaged glomeruli. The small blood vessels aren’t able to function the way they should. They can’t filter waste from the blood leading to the accumulation of liquid waste in the body. It occurs due to the inflammation and damage to the glomeruli (small blood vessels) in the kidneys caused by the deposition of IgA immune complexes. In such situations, the affected individual should get the state checked by a professional to know the root cause and begin the proper treatment.
- Proteinuria –It is a medical disorder of the kidneys identified by the excess passage of protein through urine. It makes the urine appear foamy. The condition may occur due to extra protein blocking the glomeruli. The small blood vessels cannot filter waste from the blood leading to the passage of protein through urine.
- Recurrent or Fluctuating Hematuria Episodes- IgA nephropathy often presents with recurrent episodes of visible or microscopic hematuria, which can occur intermittently over several years.
- Oedema – It is a medical condition in which the individual’s hands, legs, ankles, and feet are swollen. The blocked glomeruli due to excess protein in the blood vessels make the filtration process difficult. Hence, the organ cannot filter waste and extra fluid from the blood resulting in excess fluid in the body leading to swelling of hands and legs.
Treatment Options for IgA Nephropathy
The treatment for IgA nephropathy aims to manage symptoms, slow disease progression, and prevent complications. The specific approach depends on the severity of the condition and individual patient factors. Common treatment options include:
- Immunosuppressant Medicines– One of the biggest causes of IgA Nephropathy is the production of antibodies by the immune system. Medicines calming the immune system help to cease this procedure and lower the chances of the disease. These calming medicines are known as immunosuppressants. Corticosteroids can also help lessen the body’s defences and calm the immune system.
- High-Blood Pressure Medicines– The kidney disorder can hyper the affected individual’s blood pressure, leading to multiple other health issues. Medicines such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help maintain blood pressure and lower the chances of the disease. These medicines also help to reduce the excess protein waste from urine.
- Cholesterol Medicines– High cholesterol is also one of the causes of kidney disease. Hence, cholesterol-regulating medicines help to keep the condition under control and lower the damage caused due to the disease. A proper and healthy diet also helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels and is also helpful in avoiding other tons of medical disorders.
- Dialysis or Transplantation- In advanced cases where kidney function significantly deteriorates, dialysis or kidney transplantation may be necessary as renal replacement therapy.
- Renal Diet- A specialised renal diet tailored to individual needs may be recommended to reduce kidney stress and manage symptoms like proteinuria and fluid retention.
When to consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert Nephrology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
IgA Nephropathy is a medical disorder of the kidneys in which the affected patient’s glomeruli are blocked due to excess protein build-up. The condition can be identified by signs such as blood in urine, swollen hands and feet and other similar issues. There is no proper treatment to cure the disease completely, but certain medicines can help lower the symptoms.
Q. What is IgA Nephropathy?
A. It is a medical disorder in which the inflammation of the kidney happens, leading to damaged glomeruli.
Q. What are the symptoms of IgA Nephropathy?
A. Kidney disorders can be recognised by health conditions such as swollen hands, feet and ankles, blood in urine, or foamy urine.
Q. What are the causes of IgA Nephropathy?
A. Protein build up, genetic disorders, abnormal glycosylation, and a history of infections are some of the causes of IgA Nephropathy.