Background and definition
Kidney diseases are silent killers, which will largely affect your quality of life. There are however several easy ways to reduce the risk of developing kidney diseases.
Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, describes the gradual loss of kidney function. Your kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine. When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes can build up in your body.
Normal kidney vs. Diseased kidney
A normal kidney has about 1 million filtering units. Each unit, called a glomerulus, connects to a tubule, which collects urine. Conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes take a toll on kidney function by damaging these filtering units and collecting tubules and causing scarring
What are the causes?
- Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Glomerulonephritis (gloe-mer-u-low-nuh-fry-tis), an inflammation of the kidney filtering units (glomeruli)
- Interstitial nephritis (in-tur-stish-ul nuh-fry-tis), an inflammation of the kidney tubules and surrounding structures
- Polycystic kidney disease, a condition characterized by the structural abnormality of the renal tubes, resulting in the growth and development of cysts within the kidney.
- Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract, from conditions such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones and some cancers
- Vesicoureteral (ves-ih-koe-yoo-ree-tur-ul) reflux, a condition that causes urine to back up into your kidneys
- Recurrent kidney infection, also called pyelonephritis (pie-uh-low-nuh-fry-tis)
What are the risk factors?
- High blood pressure
- Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
- Family history of kidney disease
- Abnormal kidney structure
- Older age
How does it manifest in patients?
People with the risk factors above are more likely to have chronic kidney disease.
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease are often nonspecific, meaning they can also be caused by other illnesses. They may not occur until late in the course of the disease.
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sleep problems
- Changes in how much you urinate
- Decreased mental sharpness
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Persistent itching
- Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
- Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
- High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control
What could be done at home as first aid?
Depending on your situation, kidney function and overall health, your dietitian may recommend that you:
Avoid products with added salt
Lower the amount of sodium you eat each day by avoiding products with added salt, including many convenience foods, such as frozen dinners, canned soups and fast foods. Other foods with added salt include salty snack foods, canned vegetables, and processed meats and cheeses.
Choose lower potassium foods
Your dietitian may recommend that you choose lower potassium foods at each meal. High-potassium foods include bananas, oranges, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. Examples of low-potassium foods include apples, cabbage, carrots, green beans, grapes and strawberries. Be aware that many salt substitutes contain potassium, so you generally should avoid them if you have kidney failure.
Limit the amount of protein you eat.
Your dietitian will estimate the appropriate number of grams of protein you need each day and make recommendations based on that amount. High-protein foods include lean meats, eggs, milk, cheese and beans. Low-protein foods include vegetables, fruits, breads and cereals.
What will a medical doctor do to manage it?
If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of kidney disease you should seek medical care immediately.
Your doctors will ask if you have high blood pressure, if you’ve taken a medication that might affect kidney function, if you’ve noticed changes in your urinary habits, and whether you have any family members who have kidney disease.
Next, your doctor performs a physical exam, also checking for signs of problems with your heart or blood vessels, and conducts a neurological exam. Investigations that will be carried out will include:
Blood tests- Kidney function tests look for the level of waste products, such as creatinine and urea, in your blood.
Urine tests- Analyzing a sample of your urine may reveal abnormalities that point to chronic kidney failure and help identify the cause of chronic kidney disease.
Imaging tests- Your doctor may use ultrasound to assess your kidneys’ structure and size. Other imaging tests may be used in some cases.
Removing a sample of kidney tissue for testing- Your doctor may recommend a kidney biopsy to remove a sample of kidney tissue. Kidney biopsy is often done with local anesthesia using a long, thin needle that’s inserted through your skin and into your kidney. The biopsy sample is sent to a lab for testing to help determine what’s causing your kidney problem.
How can it be prevented?
To reduce your risk of developing kidney disease:
- Follow instructions on over-the-counter medications. Avoid self-medication and follow the instructions for taking any medication you are given by your doctor.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke.
- Manage your medical conditions with your doctor’s help.
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Medical Disclaimer: KompleteCare™ aims to improve the quality of life for everyone with fact-based content about the nature of diseases, preventive care, behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.