The kidneys are a pair of organs that are about 4 to 5 inches big (almost the size of a fist), and they are located in the back of the abdomen. Their important role in the body is filtering blood. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) happens when there is lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time. When you have CKD, your kidneys cannot clean the blood from wastes, so these wastes stay in your body and can cause other health problems. If the damage is very bad, your kidneys could stop working and you will have kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). In order to live, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. If you want to find out if you have CKD, you need to go through a specific blood test or urine tests.
Some of the risk factors that can increase your chances of getting CKD are having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, or lupus, being obese, smoking, being 65 years old or older, having a family history of kidney disease, and being African-American, Asian-American, or Native American. There are about 31 million people in America that live with CKD.
When a condition or disease impairs kidney function, this leads to CKD. Some of the common conditions and diseases that cause CKD are:
- High blood pressure
- Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Inflammation of the kidney's filtering units, known as Glomerulonephritis
- Inflammation of the kidney's tubules and surrounding structures, called Interstitial nephritis
- Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract (due to enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and some cancers)
- Vesicoureteral reflux (a condition that causes urine to back up into your kidneys)
- Pyelonephritis (recurrent kidney infection)
Symptoms may not appear until your kidneys are already badly damaged since CKD gets worse slowly. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Too much urine or not enough urine
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Persistent itching
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble catching breath
- Swelling in the feet and ankles
Some of the signs of acute kidney failure (your kidney stops working suddenly) are:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
If you have one or more of the symptoms above, it may be a sign of serious kidney problems, so see a doctor right away.
Most of the times, CKD has no cure and damage to your kidneys is usually permanent. However, there are some types of kidney disease that can be treated, depending on the underlying cause. Treatments usually involve measures to help reduce complications, slow the progression of the disease, and help control signs and symptoms. Generally, the doctor will recommend medication to control kidney disease complications and to make you more comfortable. Some medications can be for lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, treating anemia, and relieving swelling.
In order to lower your risk for kidney disease, follow these prevention tips:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables, and follow a low-fat, low-salt diet
- Stay physically active, get exercise for at leat 30 mins daily
- Don't smoke or use tobacco
- Limit your alcohol intake
- If you have high blood pressure, regularly check it and keep it under control
- If you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar remains at healthy levels
In short, the best prevention practices are to live a healthy lifestyle and make sure to see your doctor regularly.