TOP 4 REASONS TO CHECK YOUR KIDNEYS
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) impacts 1 in 7 Americans, but the disease often goes undiagnosed until the kidneys fail. A simple blood and urine screen by a primary care doctor can easily detect the disease. Here are the top 4 reasons to ask a doctor to check your kidney function.
You Have High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease or Diabetes
More than 70 per cent of all cases of chronic kidney disease are caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. If you have either condition, including early signs of heart disease, your doctor should closely monitor your kidney function. Both conditions put a strain on your kidneys and, if not properly controlled, can accelerate the loss of kidney function.
A Family Member Has Kidney Disease
People whose family members have CKD are at much higher risk of kidney disease. Some studies suggest that 50 per cent of people with a family history of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) may have CKD themselves. Genetic kidney diseases, such as polycystic syndromes and Alport disease, are also well known to be passed on to other family members. And now new studies are uncovering many more genes that are directly linked to kidney disease
You Are Over 60 Years Old
The National Kidney Foundation urges people over 60 years old to be screened every year for chronic kidney disease. That’s because research shows kidney disease is more prevalent in older people. One study demonstrated that almost 40 per cent of seniors over age 60 have CKD. The likelihood of CKD increases with age and the addition of other conditions such as high blood pressure.
You Have Symptoms of Kidney Disease
If you experience symptoms of kidney disease, it may mean the disease is already advancing beyond the early stages and requires immediate screening and treatment. These symptoms can include the following: changes in urination, fatigue, itching, swelling in the extremities, puffy eyes, shortness of breath, poor sleep and localized back pain near your kidneys.
When the Kidneys Fail
There are two types of kidney failure, acute and chronic.
Acute kidney failure occurs over hours or days and it is usually reversible. It may take several weeks for the function to return. Acute kidney failure can be could be caused by:
- Accidents, injuries or bleeding which lower the blood supply to the kidneys – This is called acute tubular necrosis or ATN
- Injuries, growths or blockages of the kidneys, blood vessels or ureters
Although acute kidney failure is usually temporary, in some cases, failure may be permanent. Permanent or chronic kidney disease is the complete and permanent loss of kidney function. Chronic kidney disease is also known as an end-stage renal disease (ESRD), or stage 5 kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease can be caused by inherited kidney diseases or can occur for an unknown reason at any time in your life. Kidney disease usually has no symptoms until most of the damage has been done. Earlier stages of kidney disease are usually found during exams for other problems.
There are many possible causes of chronic kidney disease.
Some common causes include:
- Glomerulonephritis – inflammation and destruction of the kidney’s filtering system
- Pyelonephritis – chronic infection
- Polycystic disease – cysts grow in the kidney and destroy its function. This disease runs in families
- Hypertension – high blood pressure
When it is found in the early stages, kidney disease can be managed with medications, a controlled diet and fluid reduction. Ultimately, however, the disease may progress to a stage where the kidneys can no longer function.
There are three options for the treatment of end-stage kidney disease:
In hemodialysis, your blood flows through a special machine that removes waste products of metabolism and extra water. The “cleaned” blood is then returned to the body. Hemodialysis is done on a strict schedule. Most patients have dialysis for three to four hours, three times a week. Hemodialysis requires vascular access to allow for removal and replacement of your blood (a surgical procedure). Some dialysis centres teach patients to do hemodialysis treatments at home.
As with any medical therapy, complications can occur with hemodialysis. The most common complication is low blood pressure. This is related to the removal of water over hours rather than the slow removal of water that would happen if you went to the bathroom to urinate every few hours. Also related to the rapid removal of water, leg cramps can occur. Other common complications of hemodialysis include heart rhythm problems and decreased oxygen levels in the blood.
peritoneal dialysis In peritoneal dialysis (PD), a soft tube called a catheter is used to fill your abdomen with a cleansing liquid called dialysis solution or dialysate. The placement of the catheter requires a surgical procedure. The walls of your abdominal cavity are lined with a membrane called the peritoneum. The peritoneum acts as a natural filter that allows waste products to move from the body into the fluid. It also pulls extra body water into the fluid. The dialysis solution, along with the waste and extra water are then drained out of the abdominal cavity after being allowed to dwell there for 4-6 hours. The process of draining and filling is called an exchange. A typical schedule calls for four exchanges a day.
Another form of PD, called CCPD, requires a machine called a cycler to drain and fill the abdomen while you sleep.
The most common complications of PD include abdominal infection or infected catheters and diabetes.
Another option for end-stage kidney disease patients is transplantation. A kidney transplant is an operation where a kidney is removed from the body of one person and is placed into another person. The remainder of the information here discusses all aspects of kidney transplantation. Kidneys used for transplants are gifts, which come from one of two sources, living donors and deceased donors.
Living donors are parents, brothers, sisters, adult children, husbands, wives or friends who want to donate to you. Sometimes people want to donate a kidney to anyone on the list. These are called altruistic or non-directed living donors.
Deceased donors are people who, after death, have their organs donated either by prior arrangements or by their family. People want transplants for many different reasons. Some want to feel better and some want a freer lifestyle. Other patients may have medical reasons for considering a transplant.
An example would be repeated clotting of vascular accesses. Some of the advantages of transplant include the following:
- It is a more normal means of keeping the body in proper chemical balance.
- You may have an increase in energy level.
- Your diet is much less restrictive.
- Vascular access is not needed.
- Some patients find that sexual interest and ability returns after transplantation.
- You do not have to go to dialysis.
- Most recipients report better quality of life
There are some disadvantages to transplant as well:
- Risk of rejection.
- There is no way to predict how long the kidney will last.
- Medications must be taken every day for as long as your kidney works. These medicines have some unpleasant side effects.
- There are risks and complications as there are with any operation These will be discussed more completely in another area.
- To support this worthy cause, we’ve put together a short blog on why your kidneys are so important and how to take care of them.
Your kidneys regulate water
Your body must contain the correct amount of water, and this is one of the key functions of the kidneys. They regulate the amount of water and salts in your body, filtering out any excess water and helping to maintain your body’s chemical balance.
Your kidneys remove waste
Yes, that’s right, your kidneys make your urine. It may not be pleasant to think about, but your kidneys are vital for removing waste and toxins from your body. They also make sure you keep hold of more useful substances such as glucose and protein.
Your kidneys control your blood pressure.
By carefully controlling the level of minerals such as sodium and potassium in the bloodstream, the kidneys help to control your blood pressure and prevent it from getting too high. Kidneys also produce red blood cells and help keep your bones healthy.
Kidney damage can be fatal – and there is no cure
Approximately 1 in 10 adults have some form of kidney damage, and every year millions die prematurely of complications related to Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD).
CKD is a gradual loss of kidney function over time and is most common in older people and women. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to detect as most people don’t show any symptoms until they lose up to 90% of their kidney function.
What’s more, there is no cure, although treatment such as dialysis can slow the progression of the disease and prevent more serious conditions from developing.
Keep your kidneys healthy
In summary, the kidneys are highly complex organs that carry out essential tasks to keep our bodies healthy.
So what do I do to keep my kidneys healthy I hear you say? Here are the eight golden rules to follow:
- Keep fit and active
- Keep regular control of your blood sugar level
- Monitor your blood pressure
- Eat healthily and keep your weight in check
- Maintain a healthy fluid intake – it is recommended to drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t take over-the-counter pills regularly
- Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more of the “˜high risk’ factors, such as diabetes or hypertension