Chronic Kidney Disease
Touro University - California, US
This information is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services.
What are the kidneys and what do they do?
The kidneys are two bean-shaped structures located on either side of the backbone. Kidneys play a very important role in the human body.
Each kidney has a million little filters (called glomeruli) that act as a sieve. As blood flows through these filters, the good things (like red blood cells, protein, sugar, etc.) are retained while excess water and waste products are removed via urine.
The kidneys also maintain our blood pressure, provide building blocks to maintain our red blood cells (hemoglobin), and also activate vitamin D to maintain healthy bones.
What is chronic kidney disease, and what can cause this condition?
When kidneys become unhealthy over time, it can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). There are many causes of CKD, but the more common ones include long-standing diabetes, high blood pressure (some may argue that high blood pressure is the result of kidney disease), inflammation of the filters of the kidney, obesity, heart disease, some familial or genetic conditions, excessive use of certain medications (like anti-inflammatory medicine), etc.
When the kidneys don’t work correctly, they can often leak protein and red blood cells into the urine. Over time, excess water and waste products can build up in the body, blood pressure is affected, and red blood cell counts and vitamin D levels may be affected. If not treated, chronic kidney disease can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other complications.
In the early stages of CKD, most people (up to 40%) may not have any symptoms and may not even be aware that they have kidney disease. Symptoms may only occur when the kidney function is very low.
How can I reduce my risk of developing CKD?
There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing CKD. Measures include maintaining a healthy weight with physical exercise and a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and following instructions for over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you have CKD, then it is best to avoid anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen if you can. Also, try and avoid herbal remedies unless approved by your doctor.
As diabetes and high blood pressure are two of the most common causes of CKD, maintaining your blood pressure and blood sugars within the recommended range is a critical way to reduce the progression of kidney damage. A low-salt diet is recommended if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, or issues with water retention. Some kidney diseases require special medications that your kidney specialist will manage.
What are the signs and symptoms of CKD?
People with CKD often feel well and may not notice any symptoms. The only way to know if you have CKD is through blood and urine tests.
If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or a family history of kidney disease, talk to your healthcare professional. The best way to protect your kidneys is to start treatment when kidney disease is identified.
What if my kidney disease progresses?
Sometimes, treatment of kidney disease and its risk factors may still not be enough to prevent progression. If kidney damage is severe, the kidneys will have lost their ability to function and can no longer support your body’s needs. This can result in kidney failure. Symptoms include high blood pressure, poor appetite, weakness/ fatigue, cramps, nausea, vomiting, itching, swelling of the legs, and difficulty breathing, among other things. In these cases, your specialist will discuss the option of kidney replacement therapy (KRT) with you to replace the lost kidney function. Typically the options include dialysis and/ or kidney transplantation.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms of kidney disease. Work with your doctor to control diseases or conditions that increase your risk of kidney disease.
Clinical trials for CKD:
New treatments and therapies are being developed for kidney diseases. Ask your doctor if you are interested in participating in a clinical trial for CKD. More information is available at: www.enrollmypatient.org