Your kidneys are two bean-shaped, fist-sized organs located at the small of your back, one on each side of your spine. Each kidney contains tiny blood vessels (glomeruli) that filter waste, excess water and other substances from your blood as they pass through your kidneys. The filtered blood re-enters your bloodstream, while the waste material passes into your bladder and out of your body when you urinate.

Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is an antibody that plays a key role in your immune system by attacking invading pathogens and fighting infections. But in IgA nephropathy, this antibody collects in the glomeruli, causing inflammation (glomerulonephritis) and gradually affecting their filtering ability.

Researchers don't know exactly what causes IgA deposits in the kidneys, but these conditions or factors may be associated with the development of IgA nephropathy:

  • Genes, because IgA nephropathy is more common in some families and in certain ethnic groups
  • Liver diseases, including cirrhosis, a condition in which scar tissue replaces normal tissue within the liver, and chronic hepatitis B and C infections
  • Celiac disease, a digestive condition triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in most grains
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy, blistering skin disease that stems from gluten intolerance
  • Infections, including HIV infection and some bacterial infections
Apr. 19, 2013