Chronic kidney disease currently affects about 26 million people in the United States. The condition is characterized by the gradual and steady loss of kidney function. The kidneys serve to eliminate waste, excess fluid and drugs in the body through the production of urine. They also help balance bodily fluids, release hormones to control blood pressure, strengthen bones by producing vitamin D, and regulate the production of red blood cells. If they are not working properly, a dangerous buildup of waste and excess fluids can accumulate in the blood. This can lead to high blood pressure, anemia and other serious health issues (including heart disease). In extreme cases, kidney failure can occur. If the disease progresses to this stage, a kidney transplant or dialysis is necessary for survival.
Causes for Kidney diseases
The majority of chronic kidney disease cases are caused by either diabetes or high blood pressure. When it comes to diabetes, blood sugar levels become so high that they damage the kidneys. According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), other causes include damage or injury to the kidneys, autoimmune disorders, birth defects, recurrent urinary infections, and glomerulonephritis (a group of diseases that impact the kidney’s ability to filter waste).
Symptoms and Treatment
Since Kidney disease often advances slowly, symptoms may not become evident until late in the disease. Common symptoms include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, muscle cramping, frequent urination, swollen feet/ankles, and puffy eyes. (Muscle cramping and frequent urination may appear particularly severe at night.)
The aim of treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent further kidney damage. Hemodialysis is one option. This approach involves clearing the blood of waste by filtering it through a machine called a dialyzer. After that, the blood is returned to the bloodstream. It can take several hours and is usually performed a few times a week either at home or at a dialysis center. Peritoneal dialysis filters the blood inside the body. As such, it’s often recommended for people who travel, are working or in school, live far from a dialysis center, or are awaiting an imminent transplant. Kidney transplants are required for patients whose disease is very severe. Following the transplant, anti-rejection drugs must be taken to help increase the odds of the body accepting the new organ.
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