I was just diagnosed with IgA nephrology. Does this mean that someday I'll need a kidney transplant?

IgA nephropathy (IgAN), also called Berger's disease, is a kidney disease that affects millions of people worldwide. However, the severity of the disease and how quickly it progresses varies from person to person.

IgA nephropathy occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) builds up in the kidneys. This lowers the kidney's ability to remove waste, excess minerals and water from the body.

Researchers don't know what causes the IgA antibody to start collecting in the kidneys and there's no sure way to predict how severe the disease will become. Some people with IgAN need only monitoring to determine whether the disease is getting worse. For others, the disease may slowly progress until it eventually causes end-stage kidney disease, also called kidney failure.

End-stage kidney disease occurs when the kidneys no longer work the way they should to meet the body's needs. When this happens, a person requires dialysis, a process where the blood is filtered with a machine, or a kidney transplant to stay alive. Research indicates that IgAN progresses to end-stage kidney disease in 20% to 40% of patients within 20 years of diagnosis.

A transplant is not a cure for IgAN

There's no cure for IgA nephropathy. Because it is not known what causes the disease, it's not clear how to prevent it from affecting the kidneys. If the disease progresses and a transplant is required, it's possible that the new kidney will become damaged because IgA continues to collect in the kidneys.

Treatment for IgAN focuses on slowing the damage to your kidneys and delaying or preventing kidney failure. A number of medications can slow disease progression and help manage symptoms. Your doctor will work with you to make a treatment plan that addresses your specific situation and health condition.

Keeping your blood pressure under control and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels are important to preserving the health of your kidneys. In addition, being physically active, losing excess weight, and reducing your intake of foods that are salty or high in fat can help slow the pace at which IgAN develops.

It's important to regularly meet with your health care team to test your kidney function. With the right treatment, proper monitoring and a healthy lifestyle, many people can keep their kidneys as healthy as possible and avoid transplant.


Fouad Chebib, M.D.

May 05, 2023 See more Expert Answers

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