What is Kidney Disease?
Most people know that your kidneys are responsible for cleansing your blood of toxins and helping your body expel this waste through urine. But did you know that the functions of kidneys go much beyond just waste removal? Other essential kidney functions involve balancing the fluid levels in the body, releasing hormones that regulate your blood pressure levels, expelling drugs from your body, controlling the production of red blood cells, and activating the production of vitamin D in the body. Kidney disease refers to the condition when your kidneys don't function at their optimal level and are unable to perform their usual functions. This leads to the buildup of waste and fluids in your body, which results in sickness. One of the most common diseases of the kidney is chronic kidney disease. In addition to this, there are other types of kidney diseases also such as glomerulonephritis, polycystic kidney disease, kidney cancer, Alport syndrome, kidney stones, kidney infections, etc.
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Disease?
Kidney disease symptoms appear as the damage to them progresses. Usually, they develop over time. Here are some of the most common chronic kidney disease symptoms:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Fatigue and weakness without exerting yourself
- Loss of appetite
- Problem sleeping
- Urinating more or less than usual
- Seeing blood or foam in the urine
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Cramps in muscles
- Swelling of ankles and feet
- Feeling dull
- Itchy and flaky skin
- Shortness of breath (this happens when fluids build up in the lungs)
- Chest pain (this happens when fluids build up in the lining of the heart)
Signs of kidney failure are different from those of other kidney-related diseases. Here are some signs of kidney failure:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Constant vomiting
- Persistent fever
Some of these CKD symptoms are non-specific and can also indicate the presence of other disorders. In case you experience any of these kidney disease symptoms persistently, immediately contact a nephrologist near me.
What causes Kidney Disease?
Here are some of the most common kidney disease causes:
- High blood pressure
- Frequent urinary tract problems
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Having a family history of kidney diseases
- Age factor
- Malformations in the kidneys
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and IgA nephropathy
- Obstructions caused by issues such as tumors, kidney stones, or an enlarged prostate gland (in men)
- Heart attack
- Long term dependence on substances
Some of these kidney disease causes may lead to permanent damage and others may cause reversible kidney issues.
How Is Kidney Disease Diagnosed?
Your doctor may advise a kidney function test if you suffer from any conditions that cause harm to the kidneys. Or this test may be advised during a routine physical examination when your doctor sees any of the above-mentioned symptoms of kidney disease. Here are some of the tests that you may have to undergo when you exhibit chronic kidney disease symptoms:
- Blood test: This test is done to measure the levels of creatinine (waste) in your blood.
- Urine test: This test is done to assess the levels of albumin and creatinine and their ratio (ACR). It also measures blood and protein in your urine.
- Diabetes test: This is to assess if your kidney problems are caused by diabetes.
- Alcohol tests: This is to see a long-term alcohol use has impacted their functioning.
In case you have severe kidney disease symptoms, some other tests may also be used such as:
- A kidney biopsy to assess the extent of the damage. This is especially done in the case of CKD symptoms.
- MRI scan, CT scan, or an ultrasound to look for blockages in your kidneys.
How Is Kidney Disease Treated?
The treatment plan of kidney diseases depends on the root cause. The treatment usually involves reducing the signs and symptoms, controlling complications, and slowing down the progression of the disease. Here is how the treatment of complications works:
- Medications for high blood pressure and advised relaxation techniques. You may also be recommended water pills and a low sodium diet.
- Diuretics to treat swelling in your limbs.
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements prevent bone degeneration and the risk of fractures.
- Hormone and iron supplements to treat anemia.
- Statins to reduce your levels of cholesterols.
- A low protein diet to reduce the levels of waste products in your blood.
- Antibiotics for treating kidney infections. You may also be advised hospitalization for treating kidney infections if the severity is more.
Reversing or treating kidney failure is not possible since there is no cure for this condition. This condition, also known as end-stage kidney disease, you may need:
- Dialysis for treating kidney failure, which involves artificially dispelling wastes and excess fluids from your blood.
- A kidney transplant involves placing a donated kidney in your body. This requires you to be on medications for the rest of your life to prevent your body from rejecting the new kidney.
- For those patients who don't want to undergo either a transplant or dialysis, treatment measures include palliative care, symptom management, and advance care and planning.
How can you Prevent Kidney Disease?
Fortunately, there are several proactive steps that you can take to keep your kidneys healthy and prevent kidney diseases. These include:
- Include foods that support the health of your kidneys. These include things like blueberries, cauliflowers, red grapes, egg whites, garlic, etc. Limit foods that have high amounts of sodium, potassium, and phosphorus to prevent damage to your kidneys.
- Use healthy methods of cooking. For instance, opt for baking, broiling, or grilling your food instead of frying them.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This helps in preventing conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
- In case you suffer from any conditions that may lead to kidney disease at a later stage, work with your doctor to know and mitigate these risk factors. Take your medications regularly and devise a prevention plan with your healthcare specialist.
- Get active and exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Limit your alcohol intake and tobacco use.
- Get enough sleep. This is essential to keep your body healthy and stress-free.
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