Kidney Disease can affect your body’s ability to clean your blood, filter extra water out of your blood, and help control your blood pressure. It can also affect red blood cell production and vitamin D metabolism needed for bone health.
As an example, more than 37 million American adults are living with kidney disease and most don’t know it. “There are a number of physical signs of kidney disease, but sometimes people attribute them to other conditions.
Also, those with kidney disease tend not to experience symptoms until the very late stages, when the kidneys are failing or when there are large amounts of protein in the urine.
This is one of the reasons why only 10% of people with chronic kidney disease know that they have it,” says Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, Chief Medical Officer at the National Kidney Foundation.
What is the Work of Kidneys?
Important to realize, you’re born with two kidneys. They’re on either side of your spine, just above your waist. In that case, when your kidneys are damaged, waste products and fluid can build up in your body. That can cause swelling in your ankles, nausea, weakness, poor sleep, and shortness of breath.
Without treatment, the damage can get worse and your kidneys may eventually stop working. That’s serious, and it can be life-threatening.
The work of Healthy kidneys is to?
- Make renin, which your body uses to help manage your blood pressure
- Keep a balance of water and minerals (such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorus) in your blood
- Make a chemical called erythropoietin, which prompts your body to make red blood cells
- Remove waste from your blood after digestion, muscle activity, and exposure to chemicals or medications
- Make an active form of vitamin D, needed for bone health and other things
What is Chronic and Acute Kidney Disease?
When your kidneys don’t work well for longer than 3 months, doctors call it chronic kidney disease. You may not have any symptoms in the early stages, but that’s when it’s simpler to treat.
If your kidneys suddenly stop working, doctors call it acute kidney injury or acute renal failure. The main causes are:
- Not enough blood flow to the kidneys
- Direct damage to the kidneys themselves
- Urine backed up in the kidneys
Those things can happen when you:
- Have a traumatic injury with blood loss, such as in a car wreck
- Are dehydrated or your muscle tissue breaks down, sending too much protein into your bloodstream
- Go into shock because you have a severe infection called sepsis
- Have an enlarged prostate that blocks your urine flow
- Take certain drugs or are around certain toxins that directly damage the kidney
- Have complications during pregnancy, such as eclampsia and pre-eclampsia
What are the Signs of Kidney Disease?
While the only way to know for sure if you have kidney disease is to get tested, Dr. Vassalotti shares 10 possible signs you may have kidney disease.
If you’re at risk for kidney disease due to high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of kidney failure or if you’re older than age 60, it’s important to get tested annually for kidney disease.
Be sure to mention any symptoms you’re experiencing to your healthcare practitioner. The early signs of Kidney Disease may include;
1. You’re more tired, have less energy or are having trouble concentrating
A severe decrease in kidney function can lead to a buildup of toxins and impurities in the blood. This can cause people to feel tired, weak and can make it hard to concentrate. Another complication of kidney disease is anemia, which can cause weakness and fatigue.
2. You’re having trouble sleeping
When the kidneys aren’t filtering properly, toxins stay in the blood rather than leaving the body through the urine. This can make it difficult to sleep. There is also a link between obesity and chronic kidney disease, and sleep apnea is more common in those with chronic kidney disease, compared with the general population.
3. You have dry and itchy skin
Healthy kidneys do many important jobs. They remove wastes and extra fluid from your body, help make red blood cells, help keep bones strong and work to maintain the right amount of minerals in your blood. Dry and itchy skin can be a sign of the mineral and bone disease that often accompanies advanced kidney disease when the kidneys are no longer able to keep the right balance of minerals and nutrients in your blood.
4. You feel the need to urinate more often
If you feel the need to urinate more often, especially at night, this can be a sign of kidney disease. When the kidney’s filters are damaged, it can cause an increase in the urge to urinate. Sometimes this can also be a sign of a urinary infection or enlarged prostate in men.
5. You see blood in your urine
Healthy kidneys typically keep the blood cells in the body when filtering wastes from the blood to create urine, but when the kidney’s filters have been damaged, these blood cells can start to “leak” out into the urine. In addition to signaling kidney disease, blood in the urine can be indicative of tumors, kidney stones or an infection.
6. Your urine is foamy
Excessive bubbles in the urine – especially those that require you to flush several times before they go away—indicate protein in the urine. This foam may look like the foam you see when scrambling eggs, as the common protein found in urine, albumin, is the same protein that is found in eggs.
7. You’re experiencing persistent puffiness around your eyes
Protein in the urine is an early sign that the kidneys’ filters have been damaged, allowing the protein to leak into the urine. This puffiness around your eyes can be due to the fact that your kidneys are leaking a large amount of protein in the urine, rather than keeping it in the body.
8. Your ankles and feet are swollen
Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium retention, causing swelling in your feet and ankles. Swelling in the lower extremities can also be a sign of heart disease, liver disease, and chronic leg vein problems.
9. You have a poor appetite
This is a very general symptom, but a buildup of toxins resulting from reduced kidney function can be one of the causes.
10. Your muscles are cramping
Electrolyte imbalances can result from impaired kidney function. For example, low calcium levels and poorly controlled phosphorus may contribute to muscle cramping.
How is Kidney Disease treated?
There’s no cure for chronic kidney disease (CKD), but treatment can help relieve the symptoms and stop it from getting worse. Your treatment will depend on the stage of your CKD.
If your kidneys are severely damaged, you can get a build-up of phosphate in your body because your kidneys cannot get rid of it. Along with calcium, phosphate is important for maintaining healthy bones.
But, if your phosphate level rises too much, it can upset the balance of calcium in your body and lead to thinning of the bones. You may be advised to limit the amount of food you eat which are high in phosphates, such as red meat, dairy products, eggs, and fish.
If this does not lower your phosphate level enough, you may be given medicines called phosphate binders. Commonly used medicines include calcium acetate and calcium carbonate.
The main treatments are:
- lifestyle changes – to help you stay as healthy as possible
- medicine – to control associated problems, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- dialysis – treatment to replicate some of the kidney’s functions, which may be necessary for advanced (stage 5) CKD
- kidney transplant – this may also be necessary for advanced (stage 5) CKD
Some people with CKD also have low levels of vitamin D, which is necessary for healthy bones. If you’re low in vitamin D, you may be given a supplement called cholecalciferol or ergocalciferol to boost your vitamin D level.
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Read more about the best preventive measures and treatment procedures for kidneys.