Healthy kidneys are vital for a healthy body. Kidneys clean the blood by filtering out excess water and waste from it. They also help stimulate red blood cell production and blood pressure control. Kidneys work hard to remove toxins, wastes, and extra fluids from the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 37 million adults have chronic kidney disease in the U.S. The sad part is that most of them haven’t been diagnosed yet. In most cases, late diagnosis leads to a high mortality rate.
When you have kidney disease, your kidneys are damaged, and you can’t function well. Without treatment, kidney disease worsens and, eventually, the kidneys fail. Kidney failure is life-threatening, and treatment includes dialysis or kidney transplant.
Types of Kidney Diseases
There are two types of kidney diseases, depending on the progression of the disease.
Acute Kidney Disease
This occurs when your kidneys stop working suddenly. The condition is also called an acute renal failure or acute kidney injury. Acute kidney injury is due to direct kidney damage. It’s also caused by insufficient blood flow to one or both kidneys or when urine backs up in the kidneys. This can happen when one suffers from a traumatic injury resulting in blood loss.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
This occurs when your kidneys stop functioning for more than three months. Most people don’t have any symptoms during the early stages and therefore don’t seek treatment. CKD is mainly caused by high blood pressure and type 1 and 2 diabetes. Other causes include lupus, HIV, and hepatitis B and C.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
The kidneys tend to be adaptable and, most of the time, bounce back from some of the damage from kidney disease. If the damage worsens, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Appetite loss
- High blood pressure
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nausea and sometimes vomiting
- A metallic taste that doesn’t go away
- Sleep problems
- Cognitive problems like trouble thinking
- Muscle cramping and twitching
- Swelling at the ankles and feet
- Chest pain due to the buildup of fluid around the heart lining
- Shortness of breath, as the lungs fill with fluid
- Persistent itching
Diagnosis of Kidney Disease
The doctor will ask you about your medical history and that of your family, as well as the medications you may be on. They will also ask if you are urinating more or less than normal. They will then conduct a physical exam. The doctor may also order blood tests, a urine test, imaging tests such as ultrasounds, or a kidney biopsy.
How to Treat Kidney Disease
Kidney treatment will depend on the progression of the disease. The goal of most treatments is to help manage the symptoms and prevent the disease from worsening. Some treatments also aim to restore full kidney functioning. Chronic kidney disease, though, has no cure yet.
Dialysis: A dialysis machine is used when your kidneys can’t remove waste and excess fluids from the body. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis uses a machine that removes waste and excess fluids from your body. A thin tube known as a catheter is inserted into your abdomen with peritoneal dialysis. The tube absorbs fluids and wastes and drains them from the body.
Kidney Transplant: This is the last option if your kidney damage is beyond dialysis. The doctor replaces the damaged kidney(s) with a healthy kidney from a donor. After a kidney transplant, you will need to take medicine all your life. This ensures that the body does not reject the kidney, requiring transplant again.
How to Live with Kidney Disease
If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, here are ways you can manage the condition:
- Keep your blood pressure under control
- Maintain a healthy blood sugar level if you are diabetic
- Check the health of your kidneys through regular hospital visits
- Follow the prescription when taking medications
- Develop a healthy meal plan with the help of a dietitian
- Workout regularly to maintain a healthy body weight
- Make sure you get enough sleep every night
- Find ways of coping with anxiety, stress, and depression
- Avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol intake
- How does diet affect the functioning of the kidneys? A proper diet can ensure that your kidneys aren’t overworking. This is especially important if you have an underlying condition like diabetes.
- What medications should I avoid if I have chronic kidney disease? Stay away from anti-inflammatory medications, laxatives, and enemas. Also, avoid supplements or herbal medicines promising a magical cure.
- What foods should you avoid if you want healthy kidneys? Foods high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is not good for your kidneys.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. Always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!