What is Kidney Disease?

 

Many individuals are unaware that they have kidney disease until it is too late. In the human body, the kidneys are located in the middle of the spine and above the waist. One kidney is on either side of the spine. When the kidneys are functioning properly, they work to cleanse the body. The kidneys are responsible for removing any waste or excess fluid. They help to regulate the blood pressure in the body. In addition, the kidneys work to keep salt and minerals at a careful balance within the blood.

Over time, the kidneys may become damaged. When this happens, they can no longer process waste and fluid like they are supposed to. As the condition worsens, fluid can build up within the tissue. The ankles and legs may start to swell as water retention occurs. Individuals may also develop shortness of breath, vomiting, fatigue, insomnia and general weakness. This serious condition can be fatal. If it is not treated, the kidneys may cease to function at all. Unless a donor provides a kidney, the patient with terminal kidney disease may die.

Healthy kidneys are responsible for balancing minerals. They normally regulate sodium, phosphorus and potassium in the blood. The kidneys keep water and blood pressure at a stable level. When they are functioning properly, the kidneys create vitamin D for the bones and renin for blood pressure. They make erythropoietin to help with the creation of red blood cells. If the body develops too much waste or is exposed to chemicals, the kidney filters these out of the body.

What Causes Kidney Disease?

Acute kidney disease is typically known as renal failure. This can develop due to a traumatic injury that caused a great deal of blood loss. A sudden drop in the blood flow can also cause renal failure. Individuals that have been exposed to drugs or toxins may develop damaged kidneys. Anything that obstructs the urine flow may cause harm and sudden infections can leave lasting damage. In addition, pregnancy complications can lead to kidney problems.

In the news, the media often covers cases of athletes with renal failure. Marathon runners and endurance athletes need additional fluids whenever they compete in an endurance race. If they cannot drink enough water or choose not to, it can cause muscle tissue to break down quickly. This breakdown in muscle tissue causes a chemical known as myoglobin to be released. Once this occurs, it can lead to damage in the kidneys or acute kidney failure.

Chronic kidney disease is diagnosed if the condition lasts for more than three months. It can be caused by diabetes, hypertension or immune system problems. Other conditions that lead to chronic kidney failure include inflammation, urinary tract infections, congenital defects and polycystic kidney disease. Drugs and toxins can cause kidney disease when the toxins are used excessively or over a long time period.

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease can cause individuals to have difficulties sleeping or concentrating. They may feel more fatigued than normal and suffer from decreased energy. In the early stages, kidney disease may cause muscular cramping, a poor appetite, itchiness, dry skin and frequent urination. Sufferers may have to urinate frequently at night or develop puffiness around their eyes. Due to water retention, their feet and ankles may become swollen.

Although anyone can develop kidney disease, there are certain risk factors that put someone at a higher risk. A history of high blood pressure or diabetes makes it more likely that someone will develop kidney disease. Other risk factors include a family history and old age.

How is Water Retention Linked to Kidney Disease?

The kidneys are responsible for keeping sodium and water at stable levels in the blood stream. If the kidneys are not functioning correctly, the sodium and fluid levels can become imbalanced. When this occurs, the waste and water that is supposed to be removed can remain stuck within the tissue. Over time, this can cause water retention to develop in different parts of the body.

How is Kidney Disease Diagnosed?

The first step to being diagnosed is to schedule an appointment with a qualified medical practitioner. Before the day of the appointment, patients should carefully track their symptoms and write down any questions that they may have. At the appointment, the doctor will begin with a physical exam and look at the history of illnesses in the family. From this point, they will perform tests to see what the medical problem is. In early kidney disease, a blood pressure measurement can indicate kidney problems. They can also test the urine for protein. If there is an excessive amount of protein in the urine, it means that the kidneys are not able to filter the blood. The doctor may also look for creatine. They may use the blood test to look for the glomerular filtration rate and other nutrients.

On occasion, these tests may yield a false positive due to illness or a fever. If the doctor believes that this is the case, they may ask the patient to wait a few weeks. After some time has passed, they may choose to retest the patient. Additional tests include an ultrasound, CT scan or kidney biopsy.

What are the Treatment Options for Kidney Disease?

Once kidney disease is detected, the patient may have to adopt some dietary changes. Other medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure have to be controlled to keep the kidney disease from worsening. Other issues like kidney stones or infections can be treated with surgery or medication. Since all of the causes of kidney disease are not fully understood, doctors may not be able to remedy all cases. If the condition gets severely worse, the individual may have to be put on dialysis. Although dialysis will help temporarily, it is not an effective treatment for the long term. Any patient on dialysis will ultimately require a kidney transplant from a donor.

Kidney disease is much easier to treat when it is caught early. Doctors can perform simple tests to diagnose the condition. Individuals who are at a higher risk of developing kidney disease should schedule a doctor’s visit if they develop any symptoms.

 
 
Author

Expert Author : Emily Clark (Consumer Health Digest)

Emily Clark is a medical writer with years of experience. She can be found residing in Maywood, Illinois, researching and writing on recent advances in medicine.