IgA Nephropathy Symptoms
IgA (immunoglobulin) nephropathy is a rare inflammation of the kidney. French Nephrologist Dr. jean Berger was the first to describe IgA nephropathy back in 1968. At first, the condition did not seem like a severe cause for concern. According to studies, IgA nephropathy may resolve on its own as one grows older and has no life-threatening symptoms. However, you cannot treat kidney diseases once the small nephrons are damaged. IgA nephropathy can progress to severe kidney diseases and failure, which is what treatment aims to prevent. Therefore, it is essential to catch and treat it as soon as possible. Here is a brief look at the key IgA nephropathy symptoms as well as insights on its development, risk factors, and characteristics.
What is IgA nephropathy?
As aforesaid, IgA nephropathy is kidney disease. It occurs when IgA, an essential body protein that protects cells from foreign bodies, accumulates in the kidney, causing inflammation. The condition may impair kidney functions allowing blood, protein, and other compounds to enter the urine. The condition commonly occurs in Caucasian and Asian males but can affect anyone. It is also prevalent among males between their teens and thirties, although it may occur at any age. In most cases, the condition resolves without treatment. In other rare instances, it continues and progresses into end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or failure.
What are the symptoms?
IgA nephropathy may result in a myriad of symptoms, especially when in late stages. However, the most notable ones include:
- Visible hematuria (red-colored urine).
- Flank pain (mostly on the side of your back).
- High blood pressure.
- Swollen ankles.
According to research, if these symptoms appear during or following a respiratory infection like cold, sore throat, or flu, there is a higher likelihood that you have the condition. IgA nephropathy may also manifest in other shared symptoms such as:
- Headache, nausea and appetite loss.
- Dry/dark skin, itching, and numbness.
- Little or no urination.
- Feeling tired and drowsy.
Patients of renal failure or ESRD also have these symptoms, and they only occur if your condition has progressed into the final stages.
What causes IgA nephropathy?
The kidney serves as the body’s blood filter and has millions mini filters (nephrons). The organ determines whether to add or remove chemical and water from the fluid that enters it. This decision depends on your current needs. Each nephron allows fluid to enter the Bowman’s capsule and travel through the tubules following initial filtration. According to studies, patients with IgA nephropathy create an abnormal IgA protein that the body perceives as foreign. This causes a chain reaction where more IgA proteins are released to combat the foreign protein, generating protein clusters and immune complexes. IgA nephropathy is primarily an auto-immune disease.
When a patient suffers a respiratory illness like flu or sore throat, more protein clusters will be present into the blood and deposited in the kidney. This is when IgA patients will begin to see various symptoms, such as bloody urine. In some patients, the condition may be a direct result of genetic defects, viral infections or gastrointestinal, and upper respiratory tract diseases.
Prevention and treatment
You should get a kidney biopsy immediately you start experiencing any of the above IgA nephropathy symptoms. Unfortunately, you can not prevent the condition, and it has no cure yet. It is a rare condition that you may be able to manage without any complications. Some cases also naturally resolve without any treatment. If your diagnosis determines IgA nephropathy, your doctor may provide various medications as follows:
- Non-immunosuppressive drugs – includes high blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs. They prevent the condition from progressing to end-stage renal disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing the amount of protein that filters through the nephrons.
- Immunosuppressive drugs – these reduce inflammation. These are mostly corticosteroids and cyclophosphamide. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation.
You doctor can also recommend lifestyle changes such as reducing the amount of dietary sodium you take and consuming a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fats. You can even begin a kidney diet.
IgA nephropathy can happen to anyone at any age. When this happens, the priority should be to get the best treatment therapies possible to prevent it from worsening. Blood and protein in urine are the common IgA nephropathy symptoms, but you should pay close attention to any other related sign.