IgA nephropathy is a disease that affects your kidneys. There’s no cure, but treatments are available to manage the condition and delay or prevent kidney failure.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when IgA, an antibody from the immune system, builds up in your kidneys. This can cause damage and inflammation to the tissues in your kidneys.
There’s no cure for IgA nephropathy, and once your kidneys are scarred, they can’t be repaired. However, treatment options are available to manage the condition. The goal of treatment is to prevent or delay end stage renal disease, which is also called end stage kidney disease or kidney failure.
Learn more about treatment options for IgA nephropathy, including medication, lifestyle changes, and clinical trials.
There’s no cure for IgA nephropathy. Treatment is used to delay or prevent kidney failure.
Medication may be prescribed to:
- remove excess fluid from your blood
- regulate your blood pressure
- suppress your immune system
- lower your blood cholesterol levels
- reduce levels of protein in your urine
Most medications for the treatment of IgA nephropathy fall into one of two categories: non-immunosuppressive or immunosuppressive.
Non-immunosuppressive medications are used to prevent disease progression, while immunosuppressive medications are used to reduce inflammation.
Non-immunosuppressive medications for IgA nephropathy include:
- angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)
- angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
These drugs lower your blood pressure and reduce the amount of protein that is filtered through to your urine.
Doctors may prescribe a diuretic together with these medications to make them more effective. A diuretic helps your kidneys remove extra fluid from your blood, which can also help with blood pressure.
Another non-immunosuppressive medication is sparsentan, an endothelin and angiotensin II receptor antagonist. It lowers levels of protein in the urine in people with IgA nephropathy whose condition may progress quickly.
Sometimes a doctor will prescribe an immunosuppressive medication that helps control your immune system.
Inflammation is an immune system response, and being able to control this immune response can help decrease inflammation that can damage your kidneys.
Immunosuppressive medications for IgA nephropathy include:
- corticosteroids, such as prednisone
Budesonide is another corticosteroid a doctor may prescribe for IgA nephropathy. It helps decrease inflammation in the kidneys and reduce levels of protein in the urine in people whose condition may progress quickly.
Some people with IgA nephropathy may have high levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a type of fat that your body needs to be healthy, but having too much of it can be unhealthy.
Having high cholesterol levels
Doctors may prescribe medications called statins to help decrease cholesterol levels.
A healthcare professional may recommend a variety of lifestyle changes to help you manage IgA nephropathy.
Nutrition has not been shown to cause or prevent IgA nephropathy, but a healthcare professional may recommend that you change your diet to better manage this condition.
These dietary modifications may include:
- Limiting the amount of sodium in your diet. Sodium often comes from salt, and reducing salt intake will help lower your blood pressure and reduce edema (swelling caused by too much fluid).
- Following a diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. This will help manage high cholesterol levels in your blood.
- Shifting toward a plant-based diet.
A healthcare professional may also advise you to eat protein in moderation. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into waste that is filtered through your kidneys. Having more protein in your body than necessary may place a greater burden on your kidneys and lead them to more quickly decline in function.
Fish oil supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids may help slow kidney damage by lowering blood pressure. They may also help reduce inflammation.
However, if you have IgA nephropathy, you should not take any supplements without first asking your doctor whether they might be beneficial for you.
Other lifestyle changes
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you manage IgA nephropathy.
Healthy lifestyle practices include:
- exercising regularly
- limiting alcohol consumption
- making efforts to maintain a moderate weight
- getting enough sleep
- avoiding smoking
- managing stress levels
IgA nephropathy can cause a variety of complications,
- high blood pressure
- kidney failure
- heart problems
These complications may require treatment. High blood pressure and heart or cardiovascular problems may be treated with medication.
Kidney failure may require dialysis or a kidney transplant. Dialysis removes extra fluids and waste from your blood. A dialysis machine takes on some of the job your kidneys would do if they weren’t damaged. This can help improve symptoms.
A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure that involves removing a kidney that has failed and replacing it with a healthy kidney.
Participating in a clinical trial may be a treatment option for some people with IgA nephropathy.
Clinical trials investigate whether new drugs, treatments, and devices are safe for use in humans. Clinical trials determine whether treatments are effective and whether they have any side effects.
Potential benefits of participating in a trial include:
- access to treatment available only as part of the trial
- more frequent checkups and tests
- closer monitoring
- the opportunity to help improve treatment options for IgA nephropathy by assisting researchers with gathering data
However, participating in a clinical trial does carry some risks, such as:
- unintended side effects
- the possibility of receiving a placebo (no treatment) rather than the treatment being studied
- no response to the treatment
- time-consuming travel and appointments
For more information about clinical trials for IgA nephropathy, visit the IgA Nephropathy Foundation website.
IgA nephropathy is a disease that damages your kidneys. There’s currently no cure for the disease, but treatment is available to try to prevent or delay end stage kidney disease, or kidney failure.
Treatment options include non-immunosuppressive and immunosuppressive medications and cholesterol-lowering medications. Your doctor might also recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to manage IgA nephropathy.
Further treatments, such as dialysis and kidney transplant, may be required for complications from IgA nephropathy.