IgA Nephropathy (Berger Disease) As A Kidney Disease
IgA (immunoglobulin A) nephropathy is a kidney disease. It is also called Berger Disease. IgA is a protein (called an antibody) that fights infection. This protein can build up in the kidneys and cause inflammation. Nephropathy is any damage or disease of the kidneys. Thus, IgA nephropathy is a kidney disorder where antibodies build up in the kidney tissue and cause damage.
Berger Disease most commonly progresses slowly (chronic glomerulonephritis) or it can appear quickly (acute). The disease varies from person to person. “Some people leak blood into their urine without having other problems. Others might have complications such as losing kidney function and spilling protein into the urine. Still others develop kidney failure, which means the kidneys stop working well enough to filter the body's waste on their own.”
IgA nephropathy is a life-long disease. It affects millions of people worldwide. Up to 70% of people can experience a normal life expectancy without any complications. “In the early stages of IgA nephropathy, the main symptom is blood in the urine. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 15 and 35, but they may go unnoticed for years because the amount of blood in the urine is very small.”
If the disease progresses, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Brown or tea-colored urine. This color change may be noticeable after an infection.
- Blood in the urine.
- Foamy urine. This is caused by protein leaking into the urine.
- Pain on one or both sides of the back, below the ribs.
- Swelling of the hands or feet.
- High blood pressure.
Berger Disease can lead to kidney failure. If so, you may notice the following: itchy skin, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, less appetite, metallic taste in the mouth, confusion. Dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary if IgA nephropathy progresses this far.
“There’s no cure for IgA nephropathy and no standard way of treating it. Some people won’t need treatment at all. They’ll still need to go in for regular checkups to check their kidney function. For others, treatment is aimed at slowing the progress of the condition and managing blood pressure, swelling, and protein levels in the urine.”
The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent kidney failure:
- Medications to control high blood pressure and swelling.
- Steroids that suppress the immune system.
- Medications to lower cholesterol.
- Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid supplements).
- Diuretics (which will help remove fluid from the blood).
IgA nephropathy can also be managed by your diet: eat foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol, limit your salt intake, reduce the amount of protein you consume, eat plenty of omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseeds, canola oil, cod liver oil, walnuts, etc.).
about the author
Lisa Foster is a mom of 3 daughters, a puzzle lover, writer and HealthTree advocate. She believes in the mission of the foundation and the team that builds it forward. She calls Houston, Texas home.