Healthy kidneys are essential for maintaining overall health. They do many important jobs, such as making sure there is a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in the blood and regulating blood pressure. There are a number of conditions that can lead to poor kidney health, which if left untreated can cause the kidneys to fail. Although there is no cure for kidney failure, with the right treatment, people can live long, happy, and active lives. You can learn more about kidney failure and the treatments available here.
Causes of Kidney Failure
If a person has kidney disease, it means the kidneys are damaged and are unable to filter blood properly. Different diseases and medical conditions can cause damage to the kidneys and affect their ability to function, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Other factors can also affect kidney health, including infections, obstructions (such as kidney stones or tumors), physical injury, and having a family history of kidney failure.
As kidney disease progresses, it can lead to kidney failure, also known as renal failure, which is when the kidneys have lost 85-90% of their function. This means the kidneys are no longer able to do their essential jobs, which include removing waste products and extra water from the body, helping to control blood pressure, keeping bones strong and healthy, and making red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues in the body.
Early kidney disease often doesn’t present any symptoms, but as the disease progresses, it can cause a build-up of waste products and extra water in the body, resulting in health problems.When the kidneys don’t function properly, it can lead to symptoms like:
- Swelling, usually in the feet, ankles, or legs from fluid retention
- Fatigue during the day
- Sleep problems
- Nausea and poor appetite, which may lead to weight loss
- Loss of sense of taste
- Make little to no urine
- Muscle cramps, especially in the legs
- Weakness or numbness
- Pain, stiffness, or fluid in the joints
- Confusion, difficulty focusing, or memory problems
- Chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
Kidney failure can lead to serious health problems and can be fatal if left untreated.
Treatment for Kidney Failure
Although there are some kinds of acute kidney failure that may get better with treatment, kidney failure is usually the result of a gradual loss of kidney function (chronic kidney disease) and is a condition that gets progressive worse over time. There is no cure for chronic, or end stage, kidney failure, but there are treatments available that can help to control symptoms, fulfill the work usually performed by healthy kidneys,and preserve your remaining kidney function and quality of life for as long as possible.
When choosing a treatment for kidney failure, you will work closely with your kidney doctor and healthcare team to develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. There are a number of factors to consider, such as your age, lifestyle, and overall health.The main treatments for kidney failure include dialysis or a kidney transplant, which both aim to help you feel better and improve your quality of life.
There are two types of kidney dialysis, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both types perform the function of your kidneys by removing waste products and extra fluid from the blood, keeping a healthy balance of chemicals in the blood, and helping to control blood pressure. Hemodialysis uses an artificial kidney machine to move blood through a filter outside of the body while peritoneal dialysis filters the blood inside the body using a catheter through the lining of the abdomen.
Dialysis does not cure kidney disease and requires regularly scheduled treatments for your whole life. Depending on the type of dialysis you have will determine how frequently you require treatment.
A kidney transplant is an operation that places a healthy kidney in your body to do the work your own kidneys can no longer do. A kidney transplant removes the need for continued dialysis and is the only way to ‘cure’ kidney failure. Although most transplants are very successful, this can vary from person to person and the wait to receive a donor kidney can be long. You will also need to take ongoing anti-rejection medication, which may have some side effects.
Ongoing Care to Preserve Kidney Health
In addition to the treatment itself, you may need to make significant lifestyle changes and take regular medications to improve your overall health and preserve kidney health.As part of your treatment plan, your healthcare team will work with you to address any health problems you have, and to make changes to help improve your health, such as:
- Dietary changes (to help maintain a healthy balance of salts, minerals, and fluids in your body)
- Lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, giving up smoking, getting enough sleep, and finding ways to manage stress well
- Management for medical conditions such as blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease
Treatment for Kidney Disorders in Southeastern Massachusetts
To keep your kidneys as healthy as possible, schedule an evaluation with Associates in Nephrology. Our compassionate and highly-trained kidney doctors provide high-quality, compassionate care and can diagnose, treat, and manage all kinds of kidney disorders.
Our doctors will work with you to help you better understand your condition and to establish the best ways to manage your condition and maximize your health. We will work with you to develop a care plan to address your symptoms and to help keep your kidneys as healthy as possible.