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What is Berger's Disease?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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Berger's disease is form of kidney disease. It occurs when a protein known as IgA invades the kidneys. IgA is an antibody that can hinder the kidneys from performing normal functions. Also known as IgA nephropathy or immunoglobulin A nephropathy, the disease can decrease the kidneys' ability to eliminate excessive waste from the blood. Kidney failure can be one of the most poignant complications of Berger's disease.

Since IgA is an antibody, its primary purpose is to assist and not harm the body. Under normal circumstances, the antibody aids the immune system by fighting harmful pathogens. Sometimes, IgA will collect in the filtering structures or glomeruli in the kidneys. When this happens, the structures cannot do their job and filter waste appropriately. This malfunction can lead to significant kidney damage.

Berger's disease may run in families. For this reason, genetics may play an important role in who gets this disease. In addition, it is sometimes seen in association with other health disorders. This disease is often found in individuals with celiac disease and cirrhosis of the liver. It has also been associated to individuals with some bacterial infections and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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For some people with Berger's disease, the symptoms may appear over several years. In fact, many individuals will not experience symptoms until adolescence. One of the first noticeable signs of this disease may be bloody urine. This commonly happens immediately after an infection in the respiratory system. Some people may also have swelling in the upper or lower extremities, such as the hands and feet. Frequently, the disease can cause a hike in blood pressure.

A kidney biopsy can confirm Berger's disease. For this procedure, a small kidney tissue sample is obtained and studied under a microscope. Before the biopsy is done, other tests may be conducted. Typically, a urinalysis is performed to establish the presence of blood in the urine. In addition, a common kidney test, such as a creatinine test, may be ordered as well.

There is no definite cure for Berger's disease. To slow the deterioration of the kidneys, certain medications may be prescribed. As many people with this disease have high blood pressure, high blood pressure medications are commonly prescribed. These individuals will additionally benefit from keeping a close watch on their blood pressure measurements. Sometimes, corticosteroids and other types of immunosuppressants are also used as treatment.

If the kidneys become so damaged that a person enters kidney failure, more invasive treatments may be pursued. Commonly, individuals in these cases will be prescribed dialysis. This involves using a machine to filter waste from the body as the kidneys are no longer able to. For some individuals, a kidney transplant may be an additional treatment option. Most doctors follow patients with Berger's disease carefully, as the treatment method may need to be changed over time.

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