According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in seven adults in the U.S.areon the verge of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD).
CKD is a condition in which kidneys are damaged slowly over a prolonged period and become unable to filter the blood the way they should, leading to the build-up of waste products in the body.
Whether you have a kidney problem or are just proactive about your kidneys, the following will give you a basic understanding of how your kidneys work and what chronic kidney disease is.
Kidneys: How Do They Work?
Kidneys are small yet important organs of the body that filter all the blood in your body almost every 30 minutes. Kidneys remove the waste products, toxins, and excess fluid from the body, thereby controlling blood pressure, keeping your bones healthy, stimulating the production of your red blood cells, and regulating the concentration of electrolytes (such as calcium, sodium, phosphorus, and potassium) in the blood.
All these functions of the kidney are critical to the proper functioning of the body and maintaining good health.
What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when a body condition or disease damages the kidneys and impairs the ability of the kidneys to remove waste products from the body. This happens over a course of several months or years.
Diseases and conditions that can damage your kidneys and lead to chronic kidney disease are:
- Diabetes – The high blood sugar level in diabetes slowly damages the kidneys and stops them from filtering the blood efficiently
- Hypertension – Hypertension causes the blood vessels in your kidneys to become narrow which reduces blood flow to the kidneys and prevents them from working well
- Interstitial nephritis–Inflammation of the functional units of the kidneys, called nephrons
- Glomerulonephritis – Inflammation of the tiny filters of kidneys, called glomeruli
- Prolonged blockage of the urinary tract due to enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and cancer
- Polycystic kidney disease
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?
Symptoms of CKD vary based on how advanced the condition is. In early CKD, many patients have mild or few symptoms. As kidney damage accumulates, the following signs and symptoms may appear:
- Decreased mental acuity
- Swelling in the ankles and feet
- Muscle cramps
- Dry and itchy skin
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite
- Generalized weakness
How is Chronic Kidney Disease Diagnosed?
To reach a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease, your doctor will ask about your personal and family health history, if you have high blood pressure or have taken any medications that might damage your kidneys and ask about your urinary habits.
They may also perform a physical exam, which involves checking for the signs of issues with your heart and blood vessels. You can also expect a neurological exam from your doctor.
Following the initial assessment, your doctor will order some tests and perform procedures, that include:
- Blood test – Measure the level of urea and creatinine in your blood
- Urine test – Reveal abnormalities that could lead to CKD and identify the cause of CKD
- Imaging test – Assess the size and structure of kidneys
- Kidney biopsy – A procedure in which your doctor takes a sample of your kidney tissues and sendsit to the lab to determine the cause of the kidney problem
Your doctor may use the results of the tests, along with other factors, such as your age and gender, to calculate the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) – a parameter that helps measure the level of your kidney function and decide the stage of kidney disease.
Kidney disease has 5 stages depending on the value of GFR.
- Stage 1: GFR > 90 mL/min, kidneys work normally
- Stage 2: GFR = 60-89 mL/min, or mild CKD
- Stage 3A: GFR = 45-59 mL/min or moderate CKD
- Stage 3B: GFR = 30-44 mL/min, or moderate CKD
- Stage 4: GFR = 15-29 mL/min, or severe CKD
- Stage 5: GFR <15 mL/min, or end stage CKD
How is CKD Treated?
Chronic kidney disease has no cure. However, several treatments can control signs and symptoms of kidney disease, reduce complications of the disease, and slow the progression of the disease.
Your doctor may also try to control the underlying cause of the CKD, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
You may be given medications to relieve swelling, treat anemia, lower cholesterol levels, and protect your bones. It is also recommended to eat a low-protein diet to minimize the build-up of waste products in the body.
When CKD reaches its last stage or when the kidney fails completely, dialysis and kidney transplant are required.
Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment in Southeastern Massachusetts
At Associates in Nephrology, we have a team of highly trained and experience kidney specialists who can accurately diagnose your kidney disease and effectively treat it. Our kidney specialists also educate patients on healthy habits, which may include lifestyle and home remedies, they need to prevent kidney disease from happening in the first place.
If you would like to make a consultation with one of our kidney specialists, contact our location near you, or fill out our online contact form now. We look forward to serving you!