Kidney Health 101
Overview, Treatment & Prevention
Overview, Treatment & Prevention
Did you know? Your kidneys are vital to your overall health. While these two bean-shaped organs look unremarkable, they’re primarily responsible for removing excess waste and water from your blood. These toxins are stored in your bladder before being excreted as urine.
Located on either side of your spinal column, your kidneys perform various essential bodily functions.
- They regulate the pH, salt, minerals, and potassium levels in your body.
- They activate a type of vitamin D that helps your body absorb calcium.
- They produce a hormone that controls red blood cell production and regulates blood pressure.
Failure to take care of your kidneys can have deadly consequences. That’s why our goal at Welwitschia Hospital is to raise awareness about your kidneys and keep them healthy. Here’s what you need to know.
Why are damaged kidneys dangerous?
Your kidneys perform a vital role. Unfortunately, diseased kidneys are unable to remove harmful toxins from your body. Over time these toxic levels rise, affecting your health and slowly poisoning your body.
Kidney disease is mostly asymptomatic until very late stages!!!
But there are warning signs that you must look out for. Here’s how to potentially recognise that your kidneys aren’t performing optimally
Warning signs of kidney disease
- Feeling tired and weak
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps or twitches
- Foggy brain
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Pain in your chest
- Changes in your urination, particularly during the night.
Please note that these signs are not specific of kidney disease and can be a result of other medical conditions. It is advised you consult your doctor if you suspect you have an unknown illness.
What illnesses can affect your kidney health
- High blood pressure: Chronic kidney disease results due to long-term, poorly controlled high blood pressure. Hypertension increases the pressure on tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, known as glomeruli. These vessels clean your blood, and if damaged, your kidney function will begin to fail.
- Diabetes mellitus: much like high blood pressure, persistently elevated sugar levels in your blood damage your kidneys and leads to chronic kidney disease. Ensuring optimal control of your diabetes mellitus by taking your oral medications and insulin injections if the need is essential.
NB: diabetes mellitus is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease.
- Although painful to pass during urination, kidney stones rarely cause significant kidney damage. They result from minerals and other substances that clump together to form hard masses known as stones. Some may need to be removed through surgery.
- Left untreated urinary tract infections can spread to your kidneys, leading to acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease
- Polycystic kidney disease is clusters of cysts that form in your kidney. While non-cancerous, they can cause your kidneys to enlarge and, with time, stop working.
- Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritides cause deterioration of kidney function over a short period of time and if left untreated, can result in chronic kidney disease.
Treatment for Kidney Disease
Depending on the severity of your kidney damage, your doctor will advise a treatment plan. We’ve listed five options.
Some medicines help to slow the progression of kidney disease. Your doctor will review your case and prescribe certain medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). They may also suggest taking cholesterol medication or drugs to help with anaemia.
2. Changes to your diet and lifestyle
A healthy weight and balanced diet can positively impact your overall health and prevent your kidneys from deteriorating further. Your doctor may advise you to speak to a nutritionist. It’s likely you’ll need to limit foods that are high in cholesterol and the amount of salt you eat. It’s also vital that you increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruit. Always keep yourself well-hydrated (unless you are retaining fluid and are swollen).
Depending on the progression of the disease, your doctor might perform a nephrectomy. This type of surgery is done in cases where patients have cancer of the kidney.
Once your kidneys are unable to filter and purify your blood, you’ll be placed onto a hemodialysis machine to help take over your failing kidneys’ job. While it can’t cure kidney disease, it will prolong your life. You’ll need to visit your hospital three times a week to be put on a dialysis machine. The othe option is peritoneal dialysis, a procedure that you can do at home or anywhere else, once you are properly trained.
In certain cases, your doctor will recommend a kidney transplant to restore your kidney function to healthy levels. You’ll first need to be matched with a donor. Until you find a match, you’ll need to remain on dialysis.
Eight ways to prevent Kidney Disease
As with any medical condition, your age, family history and race can increase your chances of developing kidney disease. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to completely control these risk factors. But you can adjust your lifestyle.
Here are eight things you can do now to help prevent kidney disease.
- Stop smoking
- Drink plenty of water
- Reduce the amount of salt you eat
- Regulate your sugar intake (particularly if you have diabetes, you need to control your blood sugar levels)
- Control your blood pressure
- Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol
- Exercise regularly and try your best to maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid over the counter pain medication such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, panamor, cataflam and so on, as these can cause damage to your kidneys. It is safe to use paracetamol and some other classes of pain medications. If you have kidney disease, please consult your doctor first on any form of pain relief medication and get advice on which medicine is safe to take.
You can also speak to your doctor about arranging a blood test to check your kidney function. This test checks for the level of creatine or urea in your blood. Doing it once or twice a year is adequate.
Thankfully, this simple blood test can detect kidney problems early. Diagnosing poor kidney health early is vital to successfully treating it. If you have diabetes or struggle with high blood pressure or heart disease, you need to do have these tests done.
If you are at high risk of developing kidney disease or answered ‘yes’ to several warning symptoms, book an appointment with one of General Practitioners for a consultation.
- Header Image by wayhomestudio via freepik.com