By Dr. Michael Etomi
This year’s World Kidney Day is March 14. This day serves to increase awareness of kidney disease which ordinarily is a silent condition that can lead to so much financial and psychological toll on the patient and the family. This article about facts about kidney disease comes timely this month
What are the Kidneys?
There are usually two kidneys, each about the size of a fist, and they are on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the rib cage.
What do the Kidneys do?
Think of your kidneys like a filter that keep some things in your body that you need and get rid of other things that you don’t.
1. Make Urine
2. Balances the chemicals in your body
3. Produces a form of Vitamin D for your bones
4. Produces hormones that regulate blood pressure, control calcium metabolism
5. Stimulates red blood cell production
So overall, kidney function kind of looks like this:
What is “Kidney Disease”?
1. Can be ‘Acute’ which is when the kidney function deteriorates suddenly (Acute Kidney Injury or “Acute Kidney Attack”).
2. Chronic Kidney Disease which basically means that there is a gradual decline of kidney function.
What causes Chronic Kidney Disease?
1. High Blood Pressure
2. Glomerulonephritis – inflammation of the glomeruli
3. Polycystic kidney disease (A genetic disorder where numerous cysts grow in the kidneys and can slowly replace much of the mass of the kidney).
4. Drugs and toxins including (but not limited to)
1. Large numbers of over-the-counter pain relievers
Risks for Kidney Disease
Anyone can develop kidney problems, but you are at higher risk if you:
- Have Diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a family members with kidney disease
- Are over 60 years old
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Most kidney disease has no symptoms until the disease is far advanced so your best bet is regular checkup.
- A sick feeling in your stomach often
- A tired or dizzy feeling often
- Swelling in your feet, hands, or face
- Back pain
- Bloody, foamy, or dark-colored urine
- Unexplained high blood pressure
- A change in how often you urinate (more or less often)
Tests for Kidney Disease
Many kidney diseases often have no symptoms so ask your doctor about these tests.
- Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)
o Tells your doctor how well your kidneys clean your blood
- Your doctor should test for “creatnine”. This can be put in a formula to get your estimated GFR.
o Normal GFR is between 90-130 but this drops as you get older.
- Check your urine for protein (albumin).
- High blood pressure can cause kidney disease.
o A normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80 (120/80).
- Kidney Biopsy
o Your doctor looks at a tiny piece of your kidney tissue under a microscope.
- Tests that take pictures of your kidneys. For example:
o CT Scan
What are treatment options for kidney failure?
Kidney disease can sometimes lead to kidney failure (also called End-Stage Renal Disease).
To stay alive a patient needs one of these:
1. Dialysis: This is a way of cleaning wastes and extra fluid from the blood artificially.
- Hemodialysis: Needed three to four times a week and each treatment last around four hours. Hemodialysis patients must follow a restricted diet and must take a variety of medicines and vitamin supplements.
-Peritoneal Dialysis: A second way of cleaning wastes and extra fluid from the blood artificially. A permanent soft tube called a catheter is used to fill the abdomen with a cleansing liquid called dialysis solution.
2. Kidney Transplantation: A procedure that takes a healthy kidney from another person into the body. The new kidney takes over the work of the two failed kidneys. The donated kidney may come from a living donor, or someone who has just died.
Finally, Preventing Kidney Disease
Diabetes and high blood pressure must be controlled.
- Regular check-ups with your doctors
- Taking medications prescribed by your doctor
- Regular exercise
- Avoiding smoking
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Low fat diet
For more information contact the Nigerian Association of Nephrology (NAN) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Etomi, MD, MPH, FASN is a Vice President with Metrolina Nephrology Associates and Medical Director Home Dialysis in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. He is also the current President of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas.