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IgA is a protein in the blood. It is an antibody that helps us fight infections. People with IgA nephropathy (IgAN) have a build-up IgA in the glomeruli, the filtering units of the kidneys. This causes inflammation and scarring in the kidneys and can cause kidney failure.
IgAN is an autoimmune disorder. That means that the IgA antibody appears foreign to the body and the immune system attacks it. Experts do not know what triggers this process, but are working to find causes.
You do not often have symptoms from IgAN since damage can occur very slowly. You might see blood or bubbles in the urine. About 1 in 5 patients with IgAN will have kidney failure in 20 years after being diagnosed. If you have had IgAN for years, you will have signs and symptoms of damage like swelling in legs, high blood pressure, trouble breathing, nausea or vomiting. You would want to see a doctor before that starts.
Diagnosis can only be made by kidney biopsy. A biopsy removes a small piece of the kidney. This sample helps to figure out how much damage has already happened. Your doctor will also do blood tests to check your kidney function. You will have urine tests to look for protein in the urine.
There is not a cure for IgAN, but there are ways to slow down the kidney damage:
Good blood pressure control with medicines that lower protein in urine
Low salt diet
You might need immunosuppressive medicines if your disease is causing damage at a faster pace.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information Center