We are so close to spring time! I just realized today that we are less than two weeks away from daylight savings time. Hopefully the weather is nice wherever you are reading this from.
By the way, how are your kidneys working today?
From day-to-day, you probably don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about what your kidneys are doing. You assume that your kidneys are filtering out toxins and producing urine adequately with no problems, right?
Well, many people do not realize that chronic kidney disease quite common and usually does not produce any symptoms. Luckily, there are ways to detect kidney disease before it becomes a problem and reduce your risk.
What are the kidneys?
Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located within your abdomen.
Your kidneys filter all of the blood in your body in about 30 minutes to remove waste, toxins, and extra fluid which exit your body via urination. Also, your kidneys work hard to maintain blood pressure, encourage new red blood cell production, and regulate electrolytes.
Facts about kidney disease
Why should you care about your kidney health? According to the CDC:
- It is estimated that more than 30 million US adults have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and most are undiagnosed
- Kidney diseases are the ninth leading cause of death in the United States
- 48% of people with severely reduced kidney function and not on dialysis are not aware of even having CKD
- Every 24 hours, more than 300 people begin dialysis treatment for kidney failure
- In the United States, diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading cause of kidney failure, representing about 3 out of 4 new cases
Scary, right? Kidney disease really has a way of sneaking up on us.
Consequences of kidney disease include:
- When kidneys are not working correctly, the excess fluid and electrolyte imbalances can lead to problems like heart attack and stroke
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Higher risk of infection
- Low calcium or high potassium and phosphorus blood levels
- Loss of appetite
- Need for dialysis several times per week (mechanical filtration of blood)
Did you know? Of the number of people waiting for organ transplants, 82% need a kidney. The leading cause of end stage renal disease (ESRD) requiring kidney transplant is diabetes.
Risk factors for kidney disease
The major risk factors for kidney disease include:
- Diabetes (type 1 AND type 2– high blood sugars cause damage to the kidneys)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- History of heart disease
- Family history of chronic kidney disease
- Being obese
If any of these risks apply to you, it is a good idea to keep open communication with your provider about your risk of kidney disease.
Symptoms and diagnosis of kidney disease
Sorry to tell you this, but early chronic kidney disease does not typically produce any tell-tale symptoms. That’s why screening and monitoring are important.
Kidney disease is easily diagnosed by certain blood and urine tests. These tests will measure the amount of creatinine, which is a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscle tissue. The kidneys maintain a normal level of creatinine and excess is passed into the urine. Elevated levels of creatinine are a pretty good indicator that something is going on with your kidneys.
If you have testing that is abnormal, it is important to control your risk factors and treat early so that disease does not progress.
Mild chronic kidney disease can be watched by your primary care provider. However, if kidney disease gets worse, you may need to see a doctor who specializes in kidney disease (nephrologist).
Keep your kidneys happy
There are plenty of ways to help protect your kidneys from damage.
Did you know that there are certain substances (medications, stuff in the environment) that cause kidney damage? These are called nephrotoxins.
Examples of nephrotoxins
You will want to exercise caution with these substances particularly if you already have chronic kidney disease. Taking these medications in and of itself is not necessarily going to damage your kidneys but sometimes too much of a good thing can cause a lot of trouble.
- NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen, naproxen)
- Medications used for immunosuppression in organ transplants (tacrolimus, cyclosporine)
- Diuretics (medications that may rid you of too much fluid such as Lasix, HCTZ)
- ACE inhibitors (used for high blood pressure)
- Certain antibiotics (aminoglycosides, amphotericin B)
- Some medications used for acid reflux (proton pump inhibitors, Tagamet)
- Some chemotherapy drugs
- Heavy metals such as lead or mercury poisoning
- Intravenous contrast used for CT scans
- Drugs of abuse such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine
If you are concerned about any medications you take, speak with your provider.
What else can I do?
- Stay hydrated!
- Lose weight and stay active (bet you haven’t heard that before!)
- Quit smoking as smoking can make high blood pressure and kidney disease worse
- Control high blood pressure
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugars as much as possible
- Get screened for chronic kidney disease on a regular basis if you are at risk
Our kidneys do a good job of keeping us healthy. Take care of them now to avoid problems in the future!
What do you do to keep your kidneys happy? Let me know in the comments.
Disclaimer: Information contained in this post should not be substituted for medical advice. Therefore, if you think you are having a problem, contact your own provider who knows your health history.