Is IgA Neuropathy on the rise? A View of the Lifestyle and Impact Berger’s Disease has on American Life

Benjamin Ansaldi '23, Guest Writer

IgA nephropathy, known as Berger’s disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A builds up in your kidneys; this build-up can cause inflammation and damage to your kidneys because it hinders the ability of your kidneys to filter and other renal functions. 

This autoimmune disease is a slow-progressing disease that arises during the teenage years and up to around age 30. The process varies from person to person; some people have gross hematuria (blood in urine), while others develop end-stage renal shutdown and kidney failure.

Since the disease is autoimmune, it affects your immune system; it is something you are born with and cannot catch.

In a healthy kidney, tiny blood vessels filter waste, excess water, and other substances from your blood as they pass through. The filtered blood reenters your bloodstream, while the waste material filters into your bladder and eventually out of your body through your urine. Immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody, attacks invading pathogens and fights infections for your immune system. However, in IgA nephropathy, the antibody collects in the glomeruli (blood vessels), gradually affecting renal function.

New studies show an unnerving rise of almost 100% in diagnostics through the past 20 years. Over 123 epidemiologic studies and a meta-analysis of the US suggest an annual incidence and diagnosis rate of 1.19/100,000 people. Now diagnostics have nearly 2.5/100,000 people with IgA neuropathy.

Theories have arisen as to why there was an increase in diagnostics. However, the reasons still need to be clarified, mainly due to the medical field’s lack of clarity as to what causes IgAN and IgA deposits to happen in the first place. Doctors believe it could be a mix of genetics, liver and celiac diseases, and infections. “There’s no cure for IgA nephropathy and no sure way of knowing what course your disease will take. Some people need only monitoring to determine whether the disease is getting worse,” says Fouad T. Chebib, M.D. chief nephrologist at the Mayo Clinic.

Most people with the disease still have the opportunity to live full, rich, and fulfilling lives as they only need to monitor their kidney health. Although there is a high increase in frequency, the numbers are still low, and some patients with the autoimmune disease don’t even know and won’t develop symptoms till their late 60s.

There are an estimated 60,000 living in the united states that currently suffer from IgAN. There is a huge financial burden on those who inherit the disorder, as blood thinners, high blood pressure medications, immunosuppressants, statin medications, and Diuretics can help control the buildup of IgA. These medications, which must be taken regularly, can be expensive and disrupt people’s lives. Other help points are available, such as high Omega-fatty acid 3 intake and avoiding high amounts of protein consumption can help.

The best thing you can do is monitor; if you see Hematuria increased proteins in urine or low blood pressure, it could be either a flare-up or a diagnosis of IgAN. Speaking about IgAN, if diagnosed, can be helpful to doctors in monitoring potential signs of damage and symptoms, “We are grateful to the patients and their caregivers who raised their voices and courageously spoke openly about their daily journey with IgAN,” said NKF’s Chief Executive Officer Kevin Longino and a kidney transplant patient.

Although a rare disease, Berger’s is still an issue many Americans face. But through both the perseverance of the American medical field and personal supervision, life can still go on normally for those affected.

Is IgA Neuropathy on the rise? A view of the lifestyle and impact Berger’s Disease has on American Life