Kidneys are one of the most essential parts of our body. They are two bean-shaped organs located just below the rib cage one on each side of your spine. And are about the size of a fist. A healthy kidney has the capacity to filter around half a cup of blood in a minute. Thus removing waste and extra fluid from your body and making urine. Kidneys maintain a balance of water, salts, and minerals like- sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium in your blood. Kidneys also produce hormones that are essential for your health and the strengthening of bones and blood. Kidney disease is a condition that involves loss or impairment in the normal functioning of kidneys like- body’s ability to get rid of toxins, waste, and redundant fluids. This leads to a significant blood chemistry imbalance-resulting in many health complications. The disease progresses slowly and becomes chronic and called chronic kidney disease (CKD)- over the period of several years. By diagnosing warning signs and symptoms of kidney disease at an early stage, it is possible to reduce complications and improve your life expectancy.
Hormones made by your kidneys help in:-
- Controling your blood pressure ( kidneys produce aldosterone harmone that help the body to regulate blood pressure ).
- Make red blood corpuscles (RBC) (blood cells that transport oxygen and cabondioxde through blood ).
- Maintains your bones health and strength ( by balancing- calcium and phosphorus in the blood).
What is kidney disease?
Kidney disease is one of the most serious kidney problems. Kidney disease is diagnosed, when the normal functioning of your kidneys gets hampered. On passage of time, there is gradual loss of kidney functions and the disease becomes chronic and is referred to as chronic kidney disease. The symptoms of chronic kidney disease are nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and a decrease in mental alertness. If chronic kidney disease remains undiagnosed, it may lead to gradual slowing down of kidney functions, which can lead to kidney damage or kidney failure. Such conditions require dialysis or a kidney transplant. Generally, chronic kidney disease happens in older people, when the risk factors for kidney disease like- high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol levels are not properly managed.
What are the warning signs and symptoms of kidney disease.
Kidney disease generally causes no early symptoms. Many people remain unaware of the disease in the initial stage. As per renal experts, “kidney disease is a hidden epidemic affecting more than 850 million people worldwide. It is double the number of diabetes patients (app.422 million) and more than 20 times the number of cancer patients (app. 42 million). In America, around 37 million people are living with kidney disease and a majority of them do not know it.
Mostly the signs appearing at the early stages- get attributed to other health conditions. Patients experience symptoms when the disease becomes chronic(CKD) and kidneys start failing. If you have a family history, are diabetic, have high blood pressure, or are more than 60 years of age, you may be at increased risk of kidney disease. An annual checkup is always advisable under instruction from your healthcare provider.
Signs of kidney disease:-
The feeling of tiredness and lack of energy – Kidney disease affects normal kidney functions. Due to the decrease in kidney functions- toxins and impurities can not be filtered outside your body. They tend to accumulate in the blood which causes a feeling of tiredness and lack of energy.
Kidney patients can also develop anemia because the kidneys produce the hormone erythropoietin, which helps in the production of red blood cells. and therefore any defect in kidneys will affect the production of red blood cells (R.B.C.) and lead to anemia. R.B.C are the carriers of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. You may feel weakness, tiredness, and lack of energy, due to anemic conditions.
Reduced sleep – With decreased kidney functions, toxins continue to remain present in the blood, which may affect your physical and mental health. And can result in reduced sleep. People with kidney disease often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, thus affecting the quality and quantity of sleep. There is a link between obesity and chronic kidney disease. Obesity may also cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is more prevalent in patients with kidney disease in comparison to other people- who are not suffering from kidney disease.
Dry and itchy skin – Patients with kidney disease often have dry and itchy skin. Kidneys with impaired normal functioning are unable to maintain a normal balance between minerals and nutrients in your blood. Dry and itchy skin can be a sign of mineral and bone disease that is generally found in patients with advanced kidney disease. Patients with kidney disease have an excessive accumulation of phosphorus in the blood which contributes to itchy skin.
Frequent urination – Kidney disease may cause the frequent urge to urinate, especially at night. The need to urinate more often can be due to damage in kidney filters (glomerulus). The urge to urinate more often can also be due to other health problems like- urinary tract infection, enlarged prostate in men, diabetes, diuretic usage, etc.
Blood in the urine (haematuria) – Healthy kidneys filter blood to extract toxins, wastes, and extra fluids from the blood. But due to damaged kidney filters, the blood cells start to leak in urine. Besides kidney disease, this may also be due to kidney stones, tumors, or an infection.
Foamy urine – Foamy urine may be a sign of kidney disease. It indicates the presence of proteins like- albumin in the urine. The protein reacts with air to form foam. In healthy kidneys, protein content remains in the blood, but when filters are damaged due to kidney disease they leak out in the urine. The condition is called proteinuria. If protein is present in the urine causing foamy urine- the excessive bubbles need several times of flushing to go away. They look like the foam that is formed while scrambling eggs.
Puffiness around eyes – Persistent puffiness around the eyes can be a sign that protein is being leaked out through kidneys due to kidney disease. Puffiness around the eyes can also be due to the accumulation of toxins due to impaired kidney functions. It is a sign of retention of water and salt due to improper kidney functions.
Swelling in ankles and feet – Impaired kidney functions due to kidney disease may lead to sodium retention. Which can be a cause of swelling in the ankles and feet. Swelling in the lower extremities can also be due to heart disease, liver disease, or chronic leg vein problems.
Cramping muscles – Due to malfunctioning of kidneys- electrolyte balance gets disturbed. The low levels of calcium and uncontrolled phosphorus levels can be a reason for your cramping muscles.
Loss of appetite – There may be loss of appetite, due to the accumulation of toxins in the blood due to kidney disease. Loss of appetite can also be due to other health problems.
Pain in the lower back – Kidney disease may cause pain in the lower back, with cramps, and the pain may extend to the thigh area. The lower back pain may also be due to other health problems that result in similar symptoms, such as vertebrae problems.
Metallic taste – Kidney disease may cause a feeling of metallic taste in the mouth, there are other symptoms accompanying this change in taste, such as loss of appetite due to the accumulation of toxins, headache, dizziness, feeling tired, low energy, and inability to focus.
What are the health problems associated with chronic kidney disease?
Following are the associated health problems with chronic kidney disease.
High blood pressure – High levels of blood pressure is one of the common health problems associated with chronic kidney disease. As the kidneys got damaged due to kidney disease -the normal filtering process gets affected. Which leads to a gradual increase in the volume of blood in blood vessels. There is an increase in pressure on the walls of blood vessels, which leads to an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure is a precursor to heart disease and stroke.
Abnormal heart rate – When the kidneys are damaged-the amounts of potassium in the body will increase, and may greatly affect the heart rate. Low levels of calcium and high levels of potassium and phosphorus may cause an abnormal heartbeat rate- and can be fatal.
Weak bones – In the early stages of chronic kidney disease bones start becoming weak. As the normal levels of phosphorus, calcium, parathyroid hormones, and vitamin- D get disturbed, which leads to bones disease. Bone disease caused by kidney problems is called renal bone disease.
Nerve damage – Chronic kidney disease may lead to various neurological disorders, affecting the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. Which include diffuse encephalopathy (brain disease, damage, or malfunction), seizures, stroke, movement disorders, sleep alterations, myopathy, etc.
Weak immune system – Chronic kidney disease can lead to a weak immune system. Which can result in infectious diseases.
What are the causes of kidney disease?
Following health conditions may lead to kidney disease.
Diabetes:- Diabetes in the long run on remaining uncontrolled may harm the blood vessels inside your kidneys. The filtering units of kidneys contain several tiny blood vessels. Prolonged uncontrolled diabetes can make blood vessels narrow and clogged. This eventually leads to kidney failure. Around 20% to 30% of diabetic patients develop kidney disease. All does not convert to kidney failure.
High blood pressure:- High blood pressure (hypertension) in the long run on remaining uncontrolled may damage the blood vessels leading to your kidneys or inside your kidneys. High blood pressure leads to stretching of blood vessels, which can lead to scarring and damage. Thus affecting the normal filtering process of kidneys.
How high blood pressure impact health?
For details click on the button below:-
High blood pressure may cause the following two types of damage to the kidneys:-
1. Kidney scarring (glomerulosclerosis):- The blood vessels inside the kidneys get scarred and are unable to filter waste products and extra fluid from the blood. It may lead to kidney failure.
2. Kidney failure:- Due to prolonged uncontrolled blood pressure blood vessels get damaged and fail to normally filter waste products and extra liquids, which tend to accumulate in blood causing- further damages. The condition requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
High cholesterol levels:- High cholesterol levels, besides causing heart disease may also lead to clogging of renal arteries and block or impair the flow of blood to kidneys leading to chronic kidney disease.
Kidney infections:- Kidney infections are rare. If the urinary bladder is infected- the infection may travel up to the kidneys and can cause a number of problems like- pain in the back or side, chills, and fever, irritation, and pain while urinating, nausea, and vomiting. The infection of the kidneys is called pyelonephritis. It may cause kidneys to swell and become painful. Kidney normal functioning gets impaired and needs treatment from the healthcare providers.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD):- In polycystic kidney disease- cysts grow in kidneys. These cysts contain fluids. If these cysts get enlarged or grow in numbers, they may hamper normal kidney functions and can lead to kidney failure.
Kidney stones or prostate enlargement:- Kidney stones besides causing pain may lead to kidney damage or kidney failure if remain untreated for a long time. Untreated obstructing stone can cause a severe blockage, which may lead to atrophy (gradual decline in effective functioning) in the kidney – resulting in a dilated and thinned kidney with minimized functioning.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)- enlarged prostate mostly leads to bladder obstruction- which can cause impairment of kidney functions.
Family history of kidney disease:- Persons with a family history of kidney disease may be at increased risk of getting the disease. Certain types of glomerulonephritis can run in families. Polycystic kidney disease is also one of the common inherited conditions.
How to slow down progression of kidney disease?
Early diagnosis is the key- to slowing down the progression of kidney disease. By undergoing a serum electrolyte test- the levels of Sodium (Na), Chloride (Cl), and Potassium (K) are measured in the blood. A balanced level of Potassium enables the muscles to work properly. And maintaining Sodium and chloride helps in optimizing blood pressure and controlling fluid levels in the body. Following a few steps may help in slowing down the progression of kidney disease if diagnosed at an early stage:-
Control your blood pressure – The progression of kidney disease can be slowed down by optimizing your blood pressure- under the guidance of your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may help you to maintain your blood pressure below 130/85 to slow down the rate of progression of kidney disease. Keeping diabetes in check, and passing out of protein in the urine in control is also required. Exercise, maintaining weight, eating as advised, meditation, lowering salt intake, and taking medicines as prescribed- under the supervision of your healthcare provider may help to keep your blood pressure in check and slow down kidney disease.
Control your blood glucose levels:- Controlling your blood glucose levels along with your blood pressure is the key factor in slowing down the progression of kidney disease. Consulting your healthcare provider and following his guidelines may help you to keep your blood pressure and blood glucose levels in check and slow down kidney disease. Generally, it is done by adopting dietary changes, exercising, and using insulin injections or pills for optimizing blood sugar levels.
Adopting changes in lifestyle and diet – Research suggests that consuming foods low in protein can slow kidney damage. Consult your healthcare provider and dietician, they may suggest you need to go on a low protein diet- and will accordingly make a diet plan and will suggest necessary lifestyle changes for slowing down the progression of kidney disease. Your dietician may suggest you consume food containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory vitamins. And limit the use of phosphorus and high protein food. You need to stop cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.
Avoid consumption of certain medicines harmful for kidneys – Consult your healthcare provider regarding side effects of certain medicines like- NSAIDs ( Non- Steroidal Anti- Inflammatory Drugs such as ( ibuprofen or naproxen ), antibiotics, herbal supplements, if being consumed by you- they may harm your kidneys or may worsen kidney function.
By observing warning signs and symptoms of kidney disease and early diagnosing- the progression of kidney disease can be slowed down.
For treatment please consult your healthcare provider.
For awareness purposes only.
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