With IgA nephropathy, some people may experience little to no disease progression, while others may eventually experience end stage renal disease.

Immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN), or Berger’s disease, is a chronic progressive disease. In some people, symptoms might not appear at all. It’s possible for symptoms to lie dormant 10 or more years.

In others, IgA nephropathy can progress and lead to kidney failure. It may also be associated with other health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. There’s no cure for IgA nephropathy.

Learn more about IgA nephropathy progression, including outlook, complications, and treatment.

The exact cause of IgA nephropathy is unknown. It’s widely believed genetics play some role in what causes the disease.

Some groups of people have an increased risk of being diagnosed. These groups include:

  • men
  • people of Asian or European heritage
  • Native American people from the Navajo and Zuni tribes
  • people with HIV
  • people with cirrhosis
  • people with celiac disease

In some cases, IgA nephropathy occurs in multiple members of the same family. In other cases, IgA nephropathy appears in a person who has no family history of disease.

IgA nephropathy doesn’t always cause symptoms. Some people may have the disease without knowing, and in some, it can take years for symptoms to develop.

One of the first indications IgA nephropathy may be present is blood or protein in the urine. This may cause a variety of symptoms, causing urine to be:

  • foamy
  • pink
  • the color of tea
  • the color of cola

Urine that is the color of tea or cola may appear after a cold, respiratory infection, or sore throat.

Other symptoms of IgA nephropathy include:

  • fatigue
  • cold or flu symptoms
  • pain in the lower back
  • pain in the sides
  • weakness
  • high blood pressure

As the disease progresses, people may experience edema. This is a swelling caused by a collection of fluid in various parts of the body. As the disease worsens, the swelling can worsen. Swelling can be most obvious in the:

  • hands
  • feet
  • abdomen
  • surrounding eye area

When the disease worsens, fatigue may also get worse. The fatigue may be so severe that it interferes with daily functioning.

There’s no cure for IgA nephropathy, although treatment can slow the progression of the disease.

Some people with the disease will find their symptoms worsen over time until they reach kidney failure, one of the most serious complications. Kidney failure occurs when less than 15% of the kidney is working properly.

The kidneys have important bodily functions. These functions include:

  • stopping waste and extra fluids from building up in the body
  • balancing salts and minerals
  • making hormones that create red blood cells, strengthen bones, and control blood pressure

When the kidneys aren’t working, numerous other serious health problems can occur. These include:

  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • anemia
  • mineral and bone disorder
  • malnutrition

Those experiencing kidney failure may experience a variety of symptoms. These include:

  • stiffness and pain in the joints
  • headaches
  • itchiness
  • sleep issues
  • loss of sense of taste and appetite
  • weight loss
  • muscle cramps and numbness
  • making little or no urine
  • nausea
  • memory problems
  • difficulty concentrating

Those who reach kidney failure may require a kidney transplant or dialysis to stay alive.

However, a kidney transplant is not considered a cure, and IgA nephropathy may also damage a new kidney. Roughly 40% of transplanted kidneys in those with IgA nephropathy will fail.

The outlook for IgA nephropathy is highly variable from person to person. IgA nephropathy is a chronic and progressive disease. More than 50% of cases of the disease will progress even with treatment.

Of those who experience disease progression, 20% to 40% will progress to end stage renal disease, or kidney failure.

Research suggests that those living with IgA nephropathy are more likely to die prematurely than those in the general population. A 2019 study in Sweden found a 53% higher risk of all-cause mortality among those with IgA nephropathy over a median period of 13.6 years.

The overall risk of mortality was highest in the first year following diagnosis. Those with IgA nephropathy also had a 59% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Some people with IgA nephropathy will experience few or no symptoms or complications from the disease.

IgA nephropathy can take many years to progress. Some people can go years or decades before ever experiencing symptoms.

Damage to the kidneys can take many years to occur. A 2017 study from China found that 30% of people with IgA nephropathy progressed to end stage renal disease within 10 to 20 years.

There is no cure for IgA nephropathy. Treatment is focused on slowing the progression of the disease and preventing or delaying damage to the kidneys and kidney failure.

Medication may be used to:

  • lower cholesterol
  • lower inflammation and swelling
  • control blood pressure
  • remove excess fluid from the body

IgA nephropathy is a chronic progressive disease. Some people may not know they have it and may not experience any symptoms.

Some do not experience symptoms for 10 or more years. In some people, IgA nephropathy can progress to end stage renal disease and kidney failure. Some people may require a kidney transplant or dialysis.