IgA nephropathy is caused by proteins made by your immune system but it is not an autoimmune disease. IgA nephropathy is a disease that causes inflammation in kidneys. It causes damage to kidneys when there is buildup of proteins in your kidneys. This accumulation of proteins lowers the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and fluids from your blood. As such there is no cure for IgA nephropathy in allopathic treatment, but there are treatments that can slow the damage to your kidneys.
There are tiny blood vessels (glomeruli) in your kidneys that clean your blood. In the patients with IgA nephropathy, immunoglobulin A or IgA (proteins that are made by your immune system) accumulates into your kidneys. These immunoglobulin proteins form clumps inside the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys. This protein buildup, which occurs slowly over the time, causes inflammation and damage to the glomeruli. It thus lowers your kidneys’ ability to filter waste and fluid from the blood.
Kidney damage from IgA nephropathy at time is a serious complication and can lead to:
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- Kidney failure/ ESRD/ ESKD (End-stage renal/kidney disease)
IgA nephropathy has been found as one of the most common causes behind kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. IgA nephropathy is also commonly known as Berger’s disease.
Let’s find some signs and symptoms of IgA nephropathy
Kidney damage caused due to IgA nephropathy is a slow process. It can take several years to develop. Therefore it is found in people with IgA nephropathy that they do not show any symptoms up to 10 years or more. It is also seen in some people that they carry IgA nephropathy unknowingly for years.
The most commonly observed sign of IgA nephropathy is usually observed as the presence of blood or protein in your urine. One may also notice:
- Pink or the brownish-black colour urine. This is especially observed after a cold, sore throat or respiratory infection.
- Blood in your urine.
- Foamy/frothy urine.
Doctors would advise to conduct a routine urine test if they find signs of IgA nephropathy, i.e. when you report presence of blood or protein in your urine.
There are various symptoms found along with the presence of blood in urine i.e. you may also:
- Feel cold or flu
- Feel tired and lethargic
- Have hypertension
- Report pain in your lower back or sides
- Oedema in your hands or feet
How is IgA nephropathy caused?
It is not surprising that scientists and doctors are still trying to find the exact cause of IgA nephropathy. It is not yet clear why a few people complain about it while others do not. It has been found that people with certain health conditions have a higher chance of having it, like:
- Celiac disease: Gluten is a protein, it has been found in wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease is a condition where allergy to gluten has been reported in people. This condition tends to run in families i.e. found to be genetically transferred.
- Liver Cirrhosis: Liver cirrhosis is a disease where scar tissue replaces normal liver tissue.
- HIV A viral infection.
IgA nephropathy has also been reported more commonly in following:
- Men as compared to women
- Native Americans of a few tribes
- Asian or European descent People
Till date it has been assumed that IgA nephropathy condition can run down through your family. This means it has been reported to be transferred genetically. But it has also been surprisingly seen in people with no family history of the disease.
How do doctors assess IgA nephropathy?
Doctors may suspect IgA nephropathy if you report the presence of proteins in your urine after confirming with a urine test. It has been observed that many kidney-related problems can lead to proteinuria or the presence of proteins in your urine. The only way a doctor can be sure that you have been suffering from IgA nephropathy is by confirming its presence by performing a kidney biopsy.
A kidney biopsy is a surgical process where doctors scrap a very small piece of tissue from your kidneys and examine it under a microscope.
It is not difficult to find the presence of IgA nephropathy at any age, but 80% of people with IgA nephropathy are diagnosed only between ages 16 and 35. IgA nephropathy has rarely been reported in children.
How would doctors treat IgA nephropathy?
As we have already discussed above, there is no sure cure for IgA nephropathy yet. The goal of the treatment is to slow down the damage caused to your kidneys. It also aims to delay or prevent kidney failure. Your doctor will work and make a treatment plan you could best adopt.
IgA nephropathy has been treated with the following medicines that will help to:
- Control your blood pressure
- Lower down the edema/ inflammation (swelling)
- Lower down your blood cholesterol levels
- Remove extra fluids from your blood
Your doctor may also advise you to:
- Adopt a diet that contains a lower amount of protein, fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
- Reduce consumption of fluids as drinks and via some foods
- Reduce weight
Your doctor will also advise regular tests to track your kidney health over time.
Few treatments and co-relations being observed
A few researchers found that a surgery where your tonsils are removed (i.e., tonsillectomy) may help to slow kidney damage caused by IgA nephropathy. Since it has not been thoroughly proven, more research is still needed.
Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids
Researchers are studying the effect of fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for IgA nephropathy. A few studies were able to show that fish oil can slow the damage to your kidneys, while other studies showed no benefit. Thus, more thorough research is needed to confirm whether this treatment works well for IgA nephropathy. Doctors may advise their patients to eat foods rich in omega-3, such as walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseeds, because these are natural foods and have a very low chance of causing side effects.
Treatment for kidney failure due to IgA nephropathy
If you have kidney failure, you will need to go on dialysis or have a kidney transplant. A transplant is never reported as a cure for any type of kidney disease, but is definitely a treatment type. It is possible the new kidney eventually becomes damaged because of IgA nephropathy after a transplant. It is sad to know that 40% kidney transplants in people with IgA nephrology eventually fail.
What do people with IgA nephropathy do?
IgA nephropathy affects people in different ways. There is no sure-shot prediction of how IgA nephropathy will affect your health or how long you will be able to survive with it. As we have discussed above, some people have little or no effect on their health from IgA nephropathy, while others may develop kidney disease or kidney failure.
Is IgA nephropathy preventable?
As we are still not clear about the root cause of IgA nephropathy, we are also not sure of the ways to prevent it. However, researchers have shown that for people suffering from IgA nephropathy, a few medicines may help to control their blood pressure and to avoid protein loss in their urine. Thus they can help slow damage to your kidneys.
IgA Nephropathy and Ayurveda
Medical science suggests no specific treatment for IgA nephropathy. Medicines till date are used to delay the progression of the disease. When it comes to the cure of IgA nephropathy, allopathy is not stand firm.
When we talk about the Ayurvedic aspect of IgA nephropathy, some medicines or herbs are natural and have been found effectively help to recover from the disease. It comprises herbs that help your body to overcome any disease naturally with no side effects. It works by understanding the disease and working on it at the cellular level. Herbs in Ayurveda have medicinal qualities that help you in treating IgA nephropathy. It rejuvenates the damaged cells of the disease. IgA nephropathy Ayurvedic treatment involves medicines and lifestyle modifications for the patient. It also suggests some dietary changes that are involved as a major cause of the disease.
The herbs used for treating IgA nephropathy patients are Gokshur, Apamarg, Punarnava, Rakt Chandan, Varun, Kaasni, etc. These drugs have been used for treating specific symptoms. It is advised not to follow any herb with proper medical guidance. Integration of modern practices with ancient knowledge of ayurveda can also be a way to treat the disease but in consent with all.
Disclaimer: This information provided on this page is intended for knowledge purposes only. However, the information should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice without consulting any medical practitioner. For further advice, you can use this helpline: +91-9871712050 number or visit www.karmaayurvedahospital.com.