IgA nephropathy (IgAN) is a type of kidney disease that affects the glomeruli, the tiny filtering units within the kidneys. To diagnose and monitor IgAN, patients typically undergo a range of tests, including blood labs for kidney diseases, urine tests for kidney disease, and imaging studies.
Some of the key lab measurements that doctors track in IgAN patients include:
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR): This test determines how well the kidneys are functioning by measuring the rate at which blood is filtered through the glomeruli. A lower GFR indicates poorer kidney function.
- Creatinine: Creatinine is a waste product. It is usually filtered out of the blood by the kidneys. High levels of creatinine in the blood may indicate reduced kidney function.
- Urine protein: This test measures the amount of protein in the urine. High levels of protein in the urine (proteinuria) can be a sign of kidney damage.
- Urine sediment: A urine sediment test can detect the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells, and other particles in the urine. Abnormalities in the urine sediment can be a sign of kidney damage.
- Imaging studies: Imaging studies, such as a kidney ultrasound or CT scan, can be used to visualize the kidneys and assess their structure and function.
IgAN labs are important for several reasons. For one, these tests are essential for diagnosing the disease and distinguishing it from other forms of kidney disease. IgAN is a relatively common type of kidney disease, but it can be challenging to diagnose based on symptoms alone. Blood tests, urine tests, and imaging studies can all help to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the disease.
These lab metrics are also important for monitoring the progression of IgAN over time. IgAN is a progressive disease that can lead to chronic kidney failure if left untreated. Regular monitoring of kidney function is crucial to slowing the progression of the disease.
Monitoring Your Creatinine Levels
Creatinine is a waste product created by the muscles in the body. The kidneys filter it out of your blood and release it through urine. Since the kidneys play a major role in removing creatinine from the bloodstream, creatinine levels in the blood are used to gauge how well your kidneys are working.
So, what is the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and how does it relate to creatinine monitoring? GFR is a measure of how effectively the kidneys filter waste products from the blood. It’s calculated by measuring the amount of creatinine in the blood and other factors like age, sex, and weight. A lower GFR indicates poorer kidney function, while a higher GFR suggests better kidney function.
Keeping track of your creatinine levels and GFR is crucial if you have kidney disease or are at risk for developing it. You might wonder, “How often do I measure GFR?” The frequency depends on the stage of kidney disease. For people at risk of kidney disease, it’s typically recommended to check GFR at least once a year. However, those with known kidney disease should do it more frequently.
Recognizing IgA Nephropathy Flare-Up Symptoms
During an IgA nephropathy (IgAN) flare-up, a person may experience a range of symptoms, including:
- Flank pain
- High blood pressure
- Changes in urine
If you have been diagnosed with this disease, it’s important to watch for IgA nephropathy flare-up symptoms so that you can take immediate and appropriate action. You might wonder, “What are healthy creatinine levels?” and “What are dangerous creatinine levels?” The normal range for creatinine levels can vary depending on factors such as age, sex, and muscle mass, but in general, a creatinine level of 0.6 to 1.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered normal.
Dangerous creatinine levels in IgAN depend on the severity of the disease and the individual's baseline creatinine levels. Generally, a creatinine level above 2.5 mg/dL is considered a sign of moderate to severe kidney dysfunction, while levels above 4.0 mg/dL may indicate severe kidney damage or even kidney failure.
Speaking with your nephrologist about flares is crucial for minimizing flare-ups and ensuring that your creatinine levels remain within a healthy range. It's important to communicate any concerning symptoms to your nephrologist so that they can help you manage your condition effectively.
Lifestyle Changes for IgA Nephropathy Management
Living with IgA nephropathy involves making some lifestyle changes to help manage the condition and protect kidney function. Some of the recommended lifestyle adjustments for IgAN include:
- Adopting a healthy diet: Eating a balanced and healthy diet can reduce the workload on the kidneys. This may involve reducing salt and protein intake, limiting processed foods and fast foods, and increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help improve overall health and may help reduce blood pressure and improve kidney function in people with IgAN.
- Monitoring blood pressure: Monitoring blood pressure for IgAN and following recommendations from a healthcare provider can help protect kidney function.
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol: Smoking and alcohol can further damage the kidneys and are best avoided if you have IgAN.
- Managing other health conditions: People with IgAN may be at increased risk for other health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Managing these conditions appropriately with medication and lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of complications and further damage to the kidneys.
By implementing these IgA nephropathy lifestyle changes, patients can achieve better outcomes and, in many cases, slow the progression of the disease.
IgA Nephropathy Diet
While there is no cure for IgAN, dietary changes may help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. The IgA nephropathy diet typically revolves around limiting the intake of salt.
Specific IgA nephropathy foods to avoid or consume in moderation include:
- Processed foods
- Canned foods
- High-sodium foods like pickles and sauces
- Foods high in potassium, such as bananas, oranges, and spinach
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and turkey is recommended. Patients might consult with an IgA nephropathy diet book for information on recommended foods. Resources such as these emphasize the importance of avoiding processed and high-sodium foods while incorporating healthy options like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. They also provide specific IgA nephropathy diet recipes.
In some cases, a gluten-free diet can also be beneficial for individuals with IgAN. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and some studies have shown that patients may benefit from avoiding gluten in their diets. However, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider before making any dietary changes.
In addition to dietary changes, certain supplements can be beneficial for individuals with IgAN. Fish oil supplements, for example, contain omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve kidney function. Other supplements, such as vitamin D and probiotics, may also be beneficial but should be discussed with a healthcare provider before incorporating them into your daily routine.
Living with IgA nephropathy can be challenging, so if you have been diagnosed with the disease, it is important to work closely with your doctor to manage symptoms. Both dietary changes and lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise and stress management, play essential roles in maintaining your overall health and well-being
IgA Nephropathy: New Treatment
Despite the challenges that patients face when dealing with this disease, there is good news when it comes to IgA nephropathy: new treatment options are becoming available. One of the most promising is a medication called Tarpeyo, also known as budesonide. Another recently approved medication is Filspari (sparsentan). Both Tarpeyo and Filspari IgA nephropathy treatments have proven effective in treating IgAN in clinical trials, particularly in patients with early-stage disease or mild to moderate symptoms.
Tarpeyo has been shown to reduce proteinuria (the presence of excess protein in the urine), which is a common symptom of IgAN. Similarly, Filspari has been granted accelerated approval by the FDA to reduce proteinuria in adults with primary IgAN at risk of rapid disease progression. Filspari is a once-daily oral medication designed to selectively target two critical pathways in the disease progression of IgAN (endothelin-1 and angiotensin II). The continued approval of Filspari may be contingent upon confirmation of clinical benefit in the ongoing Phase 3 PROTECT Study. Topline results from the two-year confirmatory endpoints in the PROTECT Study are expected in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Both Tarpeyo and Filspari recently received FDA approval and are likely to be tremendously helpful in managing the disease. Price plans for these medications can vary depending on your insurance and where you purchase them, so it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to compare your options.
Alternative treatments for IgA nephropathy include:
- Vitamin D Supplements
- Steroids, suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation in the kidneys, helping to slow down the progression of the disease and reduce symptoms such as proteinuria, blood in the urine, and high blood pressure.
As discussed earlier in this post, natural options for IgA nephropathy treatment can also be beneficial. These include stress management and lifestyle modifications in addition to dietary changes. However, it’s important to note that natural treatments should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment for IgAN. Consult a healthcare provider before starting any natural treatment or supplement regimen.
While healthcare still has a long way to go in terms of treating IgAN, new treatments are entering the market regularly. Clinical trials are ongoing in an attempt to determine which treatments work best under varying circumstances. If you have IgAN and are interested in contributing to this research from home, you might consider partnering with Picnic Health.
By doing so, you can share your story and help promote better outcomes for the treatment of IgAN. You will receive updates when available, allowing you to see how the research progresses over time.