Learn about Berger’s Kidney Disease

Berger’s disease is also known as IgA nephropathy, or called idiopathic hematuria within the medical community.  It’s unlikely you’ve ever even heard of it, but one of the most common signs of it is blood in the urine.  This kidney disease occurs when the antibody immunoglobulin A abnormally deposits into the kidney, and subsequently damages the tiny filtering units within the kidney.


The protein immunoglobulin A is abbreviated as IgA, as you will see here. By damaging these filtering units within the kidney, IgA hinders the kidney from doing one of its most important jobs – filtering waste, toxins, and excess water/electrolytes from the blood.  As the kidney filtering units get more and more damaged over time from these IgA deposits, the functionality of the kidney worsens and the organ begins to lose its ability to clear bodily wastes.   Eventually, this can lead to kidney failure, a life threatening condition, whose necessary treatments are dialysis and kidney transplant. 

Berger’s kidney disease typically develops over time.  There is no set amount of time to which it does the most damage, as every case is different.  Similarly, lifestyle changes and certain medications can stave off the progression of the disease and limit kidney damage.  There is no known cure, but keeping blood pressure, and cholesterol in check and limiting the amount of protein ingested can help.  


In its early stages, this kidney disease does not cause any significant symptoms.   Because of this, many people don’t even know they have it until many years later.  Furthermore, it may get diagnosed through sheer luck by routine urine tests that find abnormal protein levels in the urine of microscopic blood cells.  Blood in the urine can be an indicator for kidney damage, as well as swollen feet and increased blood pressure.

As IgA nephropathy progresses and kidney function is compromised, the symptoms one can experience are as follows:

·         Coca-Cola or tea-colored urine

·         Repeated or prolonged episodes of blood in the urine 

·         Pain in your back below the ribs, where the kidneys are located

·         Foamy urine

·         Swelling of the hands and feet

·         High blood pressure


What causes Berger’s Kidney Disease?

The exact cause of Berger’s kidney disease is still unknown. The medical community isn’t sure what makes the body deposit IgA into the kidneys and cause damage.  But there are certain conditions or factors that increase the risk of getting it.  These include:

·         Genetics:  more common within some families and ethnicities

·         Liver disease: this includes cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C infections

·         Celiac disease:  This is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten protein found in grains

·         Dermatitis herpetiformis: skin condition that causes itching and blistering (stems from gluten intolerance)

·         HIV and bacterial infections