Many people are uncertain what kidneys do – other than they help us pee. We don't know our risk factors for kidney disease, so the condition is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, when treatment is much more difficult.
CKD is called the silent epidemic and symptoms often do not appear until the disease is quite advanced.
They filter an amazing 150 quarts of fluid from our blood and then absorb back the water, nutrients and electrolytes that we need and create what we pee with the rest. Most of us have two kidneys, though we only need one. Each kidney is fist-sized, located on each side of the spine at the lowest level of your rib cage.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney failure. Family history of CKD can play a significant role. Kidney disease is more common in those 60 and over, those with heart disease, and in Blacks, Hispanics, or Native Americans.
If your tests show reduced kidney function, your doctor will monitor you regularly, as often as monthly. With monitoring, your primary care provider will refer you to a nephrologist, a doctor specializing in kidneys. They will tell you about specific treatments and how to slow the progression of your condition. Treatment options when kidneys fail include dialysis (either at home or in a dialysis center), a transplant, or palliative care in certain circumstances.
Treatments at a dialysis center take 3-5 hours, 3x a week. These treatments partially replace the filtering function of your kidneys. If you dialyze at home, your treatments are generally shorter but more frequent, 5-7x per week. Your food and fluid intake is restricted. Close monitoring of fluids and nutrition is essential.
The biggest challenges are finding a kidney donor who matches your body’s immune system and being sure that a transplant will not make your condition worse. The transplant waitlist time averages 3-4 years. More than 100,000 people in the US are on the kidney transplant list. Your new kidney comes from an organ donor – either someone who had healthy kidneys when they died or from a live donor, who agrees to “share their spare” with you.
Discuss risk factors with your doctor. A simple urine test is a good place to start and can determine if your pee contains protein. There are also blood and imaging tests, to find out more about your kidneys.
Low red blood cell count, common in people with chronic kidney failure.
The sac-like organ that collects and stores urine (pee) produced by the kidneys before being passed from the body.
The measure of blood flow through blood vessels. Normal pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower. High blood pressure (hypertension) is when pressure is too high – generally over 140/90. Kidneys help control blood pressure.
A normal chemical in our blood produced by muscles and removed from the body by the kidneys. Creatinine in the blood increases as kidney disease progresses.
A measure of how efficiently the kidneys remove waste from the blood. Low creatinine clearance indicates decreased kidney function.
Is a condition in which there is too much sugar in the blood. Even if controlled by insulin, oral medications, or diet, it can cause kidney failure, especially in people who have had diabetes for more than ten years.
A procedure that filters waste products and extra water from your blood. It is one of the main treatments for kidney failure, by doing some of the work normally done by healthy kidneys.
This test determines how much blood is filtered by the kidneys by measuring creatinine clearance. If the GFR is low, kidney disease is present. eGFR is an estimation of kidney function from measuring creatinine in blood.
Condition of chronically elevated blood pressure.
Two bean-shaped organs which remove toxic wastes and excess water from the body (as urine). Located at the back of the body below the ribs, they also help control blood pressure, manufacture red blood cells and keep the bones strong and healthy.
When you have kidney disease, your kidneys are functioning below normal and are unable to clear blood of waste and/or fluid.
The loss of kidney function to a degree it adversely affects health. If kidneys stop working, it is called End Stage Renal Disease and a kidney transplant or dialysis are required.
A physician who deals with diseases of the kidneys.
Something that increases risk or susceptibility. High blood pressure and diabetes increase your risk for kidney disease.
It is easier to treat and slow progression if caught in its early stages. It is relatively easy to diagnose. Talk to your doctor at your next visit and ask for a urine test.
If caught in time, diabetes can be managed and kidney disease avoided. Get your blood sugar tested by calling your doctor and taking the quiz below.