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IgA Nephropathy (IgAN)

IgA Nephropathy (IgAN) is a kidney disease in which Immunoglobulin A (IgA) builds up in the kidney. IgA is a protein in the blood. IgA is also part of the immune system. Excess IgA can cause inflammation in the kidney. Over time, this leads to scarring in the kidney tissue. The severity of kidney disease caused by IgAN varies from person to person. As IgAN progresses, it reduces the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Miriam Chung, M.D.

Who Gets IgAN

IgAN can occur at any age. Doctors most often diagnose it in people between 20 and 30 years old. The condition happens mostly in people of East Asian and European ancestry. 

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of IgAN are different for every patient. Some symptoms occur even when kidney function blood test results are normal. 

Common signs of IgAN include: 

  • Blood in the urine  
  • Dark or “cola” colored urine after a viral infection (cold, respiratory illness, sore throat) 
  • Blood in urine only detected by a urine test 
  • Protein in the urine 

When IgAN progresses, blood tests for kidney function will show abnormal results. Advanced IgAN kidney disease can lead to kidney failure.

Diagnosing IgAN

The only test that can diagnose IgAN is a kidney biopsy.  

During the procedure, your doctor removes a sample of kidney tissue and studies it under a microscope. Doctors often use a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis after blood and urine tests show signs of the condition. 

  • Blood tests can show high levels of waste in the blood, a sign the kidneys are not properly filtering the blood 
  • Urine tests can reveal the presence of blood or protein  

Your Treatment Options

There is no cure for IgAN. Your doctor may prescribe several treatments to help manage your symptoms.  

  • Managing blood pressure. Blood pressure control is very important in treating IgAN symptoms. Blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzymes) or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) can help lower blood pressure and protein in the urine.  
  • Lowering protein in the urine. In addition to ACE inhibitors and ARB medicines, doctors may also prescribe other medications to lower urine protein, such as: 
    • SGLT2 inhibitors  
    • Medicines that block endothelin and angiotensin 2 protein receptors
  • Reducing immune system response. Doctors may recommend steroids or similar medication to help lower urine protein. 
  • Participation in clinical trial. Some medical centers may have clinical trials for IgAN.  
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Clinical trials are another treatment option.

Your doctor helps you find the right study for you. These trials test more targeted treatments with potentially lower risks of side effects.

Some clinical trials enroll patients, based on their genetic testing results, to test the effectiveness of precision-based therapies targeted to specific genetic changes.

Explore

Tips For Living With IgAN

Patients with IgAN benefit from supportive measures including:

Exercise

Regular, moderate activity helps manage your blood pressure and weight and improves your overall well-being.

Prescription Regimen

Follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medicines as prescribed.

Regular Check-Ups

See your doctor as scheduled to monitor your kidney function and quickly address any changes.

Kidney Transplant IgA Nephropathy

When IgAN causes progressive kidney failure, transplantation is the treatment of choice. Doctors use a transplant kidney biopsy to check for recurrent IgAN. The condition appears in 20% to 50% of patients. However, recurrent IgAN is often less severe and may not cause significant kidney disease.

Support

Get help coping with the challenges of living with IgAN through support groups like NephCure. Learn more about our how we can support you.

Nutrition

Eat a diet low in salt and processed foods to manage your blood pressure and reduce strain on your kidneys. Learn more about a kidney-friendly diet and get our cookbook.

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