Immunoglobulin A vasculitis (IgAV), also referred to as Henoch-Schönlein purpura, is the most common form of childhood vasculitis. The pathogenesis of IgAV is still largely unknown. The disease is characterized by IgA1-immune deposits, complement factors and neutrophil infiltration, which is accompanied with vascular inflammation. Incidence of IgAV is twice as high during fall and winter, suggesting an environmental trigger associated to climate. Symptoms can resolve without intervention, but some patients develop glomerulonephritis with features similar to IgA nephropathy that include hematuria, proteinuria and IgA deposition in the glomerulus. Ultimately, this can lead to end-stage renal disease. In IgA nephropathy immune complexes containing galactose-deficient (Gd-)IgA1 are found and thought to play a role in pathogenesis. Although Gd-IgA1 complexes are also present in patients with IgAV with nephritis, their role in IgAV is disputed. Alternatively, it has been proposed that in IgAV IgA1 antibodies are generated against endothelial cells. We anticipate that such IgA complexes can activate neutrophils via the IgA Fc receptor FcαRI (CD89), thereby inducing neutrophil migration and activation, which ultimately causes tissue damage in IgAV. In this Review, we discuss the putative role of IgA, IgA receptors, neutrophils and other factors such as infections, genetics and the complement system in the pathogenesis of IgA vasculitis.