Kidney disease is a condition where the kidneys do not function normally. It is brought about by either an infection, physiological problems like autoimmune disorders or physical damage to the kidney. The kidneys play an important role in filtering out toxins, maintaining blood pressure and the acid- base levels in the body. They also regulate urinary system which is key in removing toxins from the body. Kidney disease was though to be prevalent among older people but now it is also common in young adults. In case of kidney disease, depending on the severity, a doctor may advice medication, diet restrictions, dialysis or a kidney transplant. Doctors say that a kidney transplant is the best way to avoid further complications in a patient. Common symptoms of kidney failure are abdominal pain, back pain, nausea, loss of appetite, oedma, increase in creatinine and protein content in a person’s body and general malaise. Urinary retention is also another common indicator. Urinary retention leads to a build up of toxins within the body and can lead to various other complications such as coma and death. If a person experiences the above mentioned symptoms, it is prudent to visit a doctor immediately. In this section you can find interesting articles like why the younger generation is more prone to kidney disease, some useful tips to prevent kidney disease and things that could be damaging your kidneys.
Kidney disease is broadly classifies as:
Acute kidney disease or acute kidney failure (AKF): It occurs when the kidney function is reduced greatly or lost abruptly.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD): It is an age related gradual loss of kidney function and is often symptomless in the initial stages. Because loss of kidney function is gradual in CKD, there are different stages of CKD.
Mild CKD: It occurs when the kidneys are damaged and cause slight decrease in GFR i.e., between 60 and 89 mL/min/1.73m2
Moderate CKD occurs when the GFR decreases further and may lie anywhere between 30 and 59 mL/min/1.73m2.
In severe CKD, the filtration rate is reduced to 15-29 mL/min/1.73m2.
Finally, when the GFR reduces below 15 mL/min/1.73m2, the stage of kidney failure is reached, where the patient needs dialysis for carrying out the filtration function.
Risk factors for kidney disease are grouped under modifiable and non-modifiable categories. Although you cannot do anything about the non-modifiable risk factors, lifestyle related factors can be controlled well in time to reduce the progression of kidney disease.
Hypertension or high blood pressure
Family history of kidney disease
Drug abuse/drug overdose
The cause of kidney disease depends on the type of kidney disease. Causes of acute kidney disease or AKF include:
Renal ischemia: Reduced blood flow to kidneys due to blocked blood vessel.
Drug induced kidney disease: Certain drugs can cause inflammation of the kidney
External Injury: Direct injury to the kidneys can damage the nephrons, thereby reducing kidney function
Medical conditions: In some medical conditions or diseases like malaria can result in acute kidney failure
Obstruction of urine flow: Conditions like enlarged prostrate can obstruct the flow of urine, causing the wastes to accumulate in the kidneys, reducing their function.
Causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD)
Chronic diseases: CKD is mainly a secondary disease developed due to an underlying primary condition, and according to statistics, chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease are the main causes of CKD.
Genetic factors: Certain genetic factors can cause kidney disease early in like. Polycystic kidney disease is a disorder in which several cysts arise in the kidneys. As the cysts grow, the kidney function reduces gradually and can also lead to kidney failure.
Immunological diseases: Some conditions such as lupus that affect the immune system can trigger loss of kidney function
Congenital factors: Structural and functional abnormalities can even develop in the fetus, causing kidney disease in the baby
Recurring infections: Recurring kidney infections (pyleonephrtits) and urinary tract infections can also lead to kidney disease.
Symptoms in acute kidney disease develop soon but in CKD the symptoms may not be seen until the kidney function is reduced to a great extent.
Here are some common symptoms of AKF
Reduced urine output
Swelling in the feet
‘One of the earliest symptoms of CKD is frequent urination at night; although innocuous it should not be ignored. Most other symptoms of CKD develop only in late stages, only after 80% of function has been lost,’ says Dr Avinash. Here are some symptoms of CKD he points out:
Read in detail about symptoms of kidney disease you shouldn’t ignore
Generally, with acute kidney disease you’ll develop symptoms based on which the doctor will recommend tests for assessing your kidney function. In chronic kidney disease, the symptoms are not seen in the early stages but the same tests if taken early can help diagnose kidney disease. Read about 3 good reasons to get a kidney check up done
When you go for an annual screening of your kidney function, you will have to undergo some or all of the following tests:
1. Blood tests: Several markers in the blood can help identify the actual kidney function. Urea and creatinine are the gold standards to detect kidney disease.
2. Urine tests: The ratio of values for blood and urine marker can give the actual rate of clearance of kidneys.
3. Estimated GFR: eGFR is the estimate of filtration rate of the kidneys based on a formula that include serum creatinine values along with correction factors like age, gender and race.
4. Imaging tests: Imaging test like renal ultrasound uses ultrasonic waves to analyse the size and shape of the kidneys to identify renal injury and changes in filtration capacity of the kidneys.
Here are 8 tests for checking if your kidneys are functioning fine
Treatment for acute kidney disease
Acute kidney failure is an emergency that requires hospitalization. The goal of the treatment is to prevent further complications. So you may need medicines to control blood pressure, reduce fluid buildup and restore calcium in the body. Sometimes, dialysis may also be needed.
Treatment for chronic kidney disease
Medicines: Chronic kidney disease by definition is a gradual irreversible loss of kidney function. However, a proper diet, certain medicines like angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) can significantly slow down the progression of kidney disease when under proper guidance and monitoring. It is also important to avoid self medication, even with over-the-counter medicines whether allopathic or herbal, as they may worsen kidney function.
Dialysis: Once the kidney function reduces to between 7 – 15 ml/min/1.73m2, depending on symptoms and other lab parameters, dialysis may be needed and transplant may have to be considered. Read about Expert speak: What you should know about kidney dialysis
Healthy kidneys play an important role in removing wastes generated from the food you eat. Some recommended dietary changes for people with kidney disease include consumption of a low protein diet, limiting salt intake, reducing intake of phosphorus-rich foods and choosing foods low in potassium. Based on these recommendations, here are 5 super-foods that you must eat if you’re suffering from kidney disease.
Cauliflower: Cauliflower is kidney-friendly vegetable that secretly helps your body control various other factors like diabetes and heart disease which contribute to kidney disease.
Carrots: Hypertension is a leading contributor of kidney disease and kidney failure. People with chronic kidney disease should eat foods that help in regulating their blood pressure. One such food that works wonders for reducing hypertension is carrot. Here are 10 reasons to gorge on healthy carrots.
Apples: Apples are not just good for your kidneys but can also reduce the overall ill effects of kidney disease in the initial stages. Here are 10 other health benefits of apples you would like to know.
Onions: Onion is healthy food for people who have a high creatinine level along with reduced kidney function. They contain a substance called prostaglandin that naturally reduces blood viscosity and helps to lower high BP, thereby reducing the progression of kidney disease.
Garlic: Garlic contains antioxidants that help in reducing inflammation. It is also thought to play a role in reducing renal reperfusion injury which is linked to increased mortality due to acute kidney failure.
Our kidneys are designed such that their filtration capacity naturally declines after the age of 30-40 years. With every decade after your 30s, your kidney function is going to reduce by 10%. But, if you’re going to increase the load on your kidneys right from the beginning, your risk of developing kidney disease later in life will definitely be higher. Here’s why the youth is more affected by kidney diseases.
To be on the safe side, follow these few tips and take good care of your kidneys to prevent the risk of developing kidney problems.
1. Manage diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
2. Reduce the intake of salt
3. Drink lots of water every day
4. Don’t resist the urge to urinate
5. Eat right
6. Drink healthy beverages
7. Avoid alcohol and smoking
8. Exercise daily
9. Avoid self medication
10. Think before you take supplements and herbal medicine
Read to know in detail about tips to prevent kidney disease