About Kidney Disease
CKD is more common than the average American realizes. More than 20 million people are at increased risk for kidney dysfunction. Are you living with kidney disease? If so, we want to be part of your healthcare team. MKC is here to help educate you on this silent disease that may affect you or someone you love. Review the risk factors and symptoms and empower yourself to take control of your health.
What is chronic kidney disease?
CKD is a condition that decreases the ability of the kidneys to function. Two main causes of kidney damage are diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes occurs when blood sugar is too high, causing damage to many organs, not just the kidneys. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure of blood against the walls of blood vessels increases. If uncontrolled or poorly controlled, hypertension can lead to kidney damage, heart attack, or stroke. Kidney disease can cause high blood pressure as well.
Other conditions known to cause kidney damage are glomerulonephritis and polycystic kidney disease. Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease in which the part of the kidneys that helps filter waste and fluid from the blood is damaged. Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited condition that causes multiple cysts to form on the kidneys. Some herbal food supplements and pain medicines (e.g. ibuprofen) have also been shown to cause chronic kidney disease.
CKD is more common in African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and other ethnic groups, however, there are increasing numbers of Caucasians being diagnosed. Conditions like hypertension and diabetes do not know color or race, so no one is immune. Educate yourself and evaluate your family history. Your health depends on it. Are you at risk?
What are the symptoms of CKD?
Most people do not have severe symptoms until their kidney disease gets worse. However, listed below are a few warning signs:
- Feeling tired or experiencing a decrease in energy
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Poor appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Dry, itchy skin
- Muscle cramping
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Puffiness around the eyes in the morning
- Need to urinate more often, especially at night
Early detection is key to keeping kidney disease under control. Your primary care physician can run a series of simple tests to determine if your kidneys are not functioning properly. Undetected, CKD will silently progress to the point of complete kidney malfunction. At this stage, kidneys can no longer work by themselves to maintain life. When this happens, patients may require dialysis or a kidney transplant. This is why early detection is critical to maintaining healthy kidneys.
Visit your primary care physician with your concerns. An exam should include:
- Blood pressure check
- Simple urine test for protein—Protein is an important building block in your body. A filtered protein is normally reabsorbed and kept in your body. When your kidneys are damaged, protein leaks into your urine.
- Blood test for creatinine—A waste product that comes from muscle activity. The results of your blood test should be used to estimate your glomerular filtration rate or GFR. Your GFR tells you how much kidney function you have. A low level GFR may mean your kidneys are no longer working as well as they should.
- Blood test for sugar—Diabetes can be present before one develops the classic symptoms (e.g. excessive thirst, hunger, and urination). The blood sugar level should be checked yearly.
- Blood test for cholesterol—Controlling cholesterol is important in slowly the decline in GFR in chronic kidney disease.
Depending on the stage of the disease and other health problems, there are numerous ways to treat CKD.
- Control high blood pressure carefully and limit amounts of salt intake
- Control blood sugar through your diet
- Special diet and exercise approved by your doctors
- Stop smoking
- Visit your team of physicians regularly
In many cases, patients with CKD also have anemia because their kidneys are no longer generating enough erythropoietin. Anemia is treated with a hormone called EPO that stimulates red blood cell production. Patients require adequate iron levels for EPO to work effectively to build red blood cells.
Mid-Atlantic Kidney Centers offers a wealth of CKD services at multiple locations in the Metro Richmond area. We would love to be a part of your healthcare team.