Although the kidney is a gland that secretes hormones that help control body functions such as blood pressure, its primary function is to filter out waste products from the bloodstream. The filter mechanism in the kidney is called the glomerulus.
Inflammation of the kidneys is called nephritis (“-itis” means inflammation). Inflammation of the glomerulus is called glomerulonephritis. The disease your husband has is more specifically called IgA glomerulonephritis.
This condition – as the definition tells you – is an inflammation of the filtering mechanism of the kidneys, which in this case is related to the deposits of antibodies called IgA. These antibodies, when found in the tissue from a kidney biopsy, help make the diagnosis.
The cause is unknown, but it’s assumed to be related to the immune responses of the body. It is important to differentiate IgA glomerulonephritis from another condition called Henoch-Schonlein purpura. It has a very similar looking biopsy, but almost everyone with this condition gets over the kidney problems.
Unfortunately, almost half of the people with your husband’s condition will get progressively worse. A large proportion of the worsening group will eventually develop severe kidney failure.
The only ray of hope for treatment is from a recent study indicating that about half an ounce of fish oil daily may help slow the progress of the disease, especially in people with mild impairment of the kidney function.
If the disease progresses rapidly, as evidenced by symptoms and additional biopsies, treatment with corticosteroids or cytotoxic agents may be recommended. It’s important to consider the possibility of major side effects from these medications and weigh them against the potential benefits. If the kidneys begin to fail, salt and water restrictions, diuretic medications and even dialysis need to be considered.
Let’s all hope your husband’s kidney disease doesn’t get worse – and if it does, that it progresses very slowly. Keep your eyes open for new information.
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