Symptoms – diagnosis – prevention

Most individuals know that the kidneys’ primary role is to eliminate waste and excess fluid from the body. The urine eliminates these wastes and extra fluid. Highly intricate excretion and reabsorption processes are involved in the generation of urine. This procedure is required to maintain a stable chemical equilibrium in the body.

Keeping the balance of salt, potassium, and acid in the body is a vital function of the kidneys. In addition, the kidneys secrete hormones that influence bodily processes elsewhere in the body. The creation of red blood cells, for instance, is prompted by a hormone secreted by the kidneys. The kidneys also secrete hormones that play a role in controlling blood pressure and calcium metabolism.

The kidneys are chemical factories that make a lot of chemicals and do the following:

  • remove waste products from the body
  • remove drugs from the body
  • balance the body’s fluids
  • release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • control the production of red blood cells

Find out more about the kidneys and their importance to the rest of your body below.

Enter Kidney Pathways

How Do They Function?

On either side of the spine, below the level of the rib cage, are two kidneys, each about the size of a fist. Up to a million specialised cells called nephrons are found in each kidney. A glomerulus is a filtering unit made up of microscopic blood veins linked to a nephron tubule. When blood first enters the kidney, it is filtered in the glomerulus before continuing down the tubule. Then, according to the organism’s needs, chemicals and water are added to or removed from this filtered fluid in the tubule, resulting in urine.

Every 24 hours, the kidneys filter and return around 200 quarts of fluid to the bloodstream as part of their life-sustaining function. Around two quarts are eliminated from the body as urine, and approximately 198 quarts are retrieved. The amount of time that pee is held in the bladder varies from 1 to 8 hours.

What Are Some of the Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Reduced kidney function lasting three months or longer, in addition to the presence of a kidney anomaly (a “marker”) such as protein in the urine, is considered diagnostic of chronic renal disease. Chronic kidney disease has numerous potential origins. Diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure can have an impact on the kidneys. It’s also important to note that some kidney diseases run in families (run in families). Some kidney conditions are present at birth, while others develop over time. The most frequent forms and triggers of kidney injury are listed below.

In those with diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or is unable to effectively utilise the insulin that is present. A high blood sugar level is the direct effect of this, and it can affect numerous bodily systems adversely. For example, among the primary causes of kidney failure is diabetes.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a leading risk factor for kidney disease as well as other serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes. This is because more blood pushes against the arterial walls when blood pressure increases, leading to hypertension. Therefore, complications like chronic renal disease can be avoided when high blood pressure is managed.

Glomerulonephritis is a condition that involves inflammation of the glomeruli, the kidney’s microscopic filtration units. Glomerulonephritis may occur unexpectedly, for instance, with strep throat, and the individual may recover. However, the disease may develop gradually over several years, resulting in a progressive decline in kidney function.

Polycystic kidney disease is the most prevalent genetic kidney condition. It is characterised by the growth of kidney cysts over time, which can lead to severe kidney damage or even renal failure. Other inherited kidney illnesses include Alport’s Syndrome, primary hyperoxaluria, and cystinuria.

Kidney stones are extremely frequent, and their passage can cause significant back and side agony. There are numerous potential causes of kidney stones, such as a genetic condition that causes excessive calcium absorption from the diet, urinary tract infections, or blockages. Sometimes, drugs and diet might help prevent the formation of recurring stones. In circumstances where stones are too large to pass, they may be removed or broken down into smaller bits that can be expelled from the body.

Infections of the urinary tract arise when pathogens enter the urinary tract and cause symptoms such as discomfort and/or burning during urination and an increased need to urinate often. Typically, these infections affect the bladder, but they can spread to the kidneys and cause fever and back pain.

Kidneys can also be affected by congenital conditions. Typically, these entail an issue with the urinary tract that occurs when the kid is developing in the womb. One of the most prevalent occurs when a valve-like mechanism between the bladder and ureter (urine tube) fails to function properly, allowing urine to reflux (return) to the kidneys, causing infections and possible kidney damage.

Drugs and pollutants might also result in renal issues. For example, using an excessive amount of over-the-counter pain medicines for an extended period may be damaging to the kidneys. Other drugs, poisons, insecticides, and “street” drugs, such as heroin and crack, can also cause kidney damage.

How is Chronic Kidney Disease Detected?

The best way to prevent kidney disease from worsening and eventually leading to renal failure is to recognise and treat chronic kidney disease as early as possible. Kidney disease can be diagnosed in its earliest stages with a few easy lab tests. This list includes:

  1. A protein-urinary test is step one. Calculating your urine’s albumin to creatinine ratio (ACR) can give you a rough idea of how much albumin is present. When there’s an abnormally high amount of protein in your urine, it could be an indicator that disease has compromised your kidneys’ filtration units. Your doctor will want to confirm your test over several weeks because a single positive result could result from a fever or strenuous activity.
  2. A creatinine blood test. To determine your GFR, your doctor will consider your results and your age, race, gender, and other demographic information (GFR). The GFR is a measure of how well your kidneys are working. Select this link to use the GFR calculator.

Those at higher risk for the chronic renal disease should prioritise getting tested. Indicators of potential kidney disease risk include:

  • are older
  • have diabetes
  • have high blood pressure
  • have a family member who has chronic kidney disease
  • you identify as Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian.

Consult your doctor about getting tested for renal disease if you belong to any of the above categories or suspect you may be at risk.

Can Kidney Disease Be Successfully Treated?

Kidney illness is one of the most treatable disorders. Kidney disease can be prevented or slowed by vigilant management of risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure. Most cases of kidney stones and UTIs respond well to treatment. However, there are several kidney disorders for which the root causes and effective treatments are still a mystery. Chronic renal disease can worsen to the point that dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed. Medications called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are used to treat hypertension and often help to decrease the progression of chronic renal disease. More effective treatments for the many potential causes of chronic renal disease are the subject of intensive study.

How is Kidney Failure Treated?

Hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and kidney transplantation are all viable options for treating renal failure. Hemodialysis (artificial kidney treatment) can be done either in a clinic or at home. Typically, thrice-weekly hemodialysis sessions are required. In most cases, peritoneal dialysis can be done at home once a day. Continual cycling Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis does not need a machine, but peritoneal dialysis must. A nephrologist is the best person to discuss the options and advise you on the best course of therapy for you and your loved ones.

The success percentage of a kidney transplant is very high. Anyone needing a kidney transplant can receive one from a deceased donor or a living donor who may be a family member, acquaintance, or even a stranger.

What Are the Warning Signs of Kidney Disease?

In most cases, both kidneys will be affected by renal disease. Excess fluid can build up in the body if the kidneys’ ability to filter the blood is severely impaired by disease or waste. There are six warning indicators of kidney disease, even though many types of kidney disease don’t show symptoms until late in the disease’s progression:

  1. High blood pressure.
  2. Blood and/or protein in the urine.
  3. Creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels are outside the normal range (BUN). Therefore, as kidney function declines, waste products, including blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine, accumulate in the blood.
  4. A glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is less than 60. GFR is a measure of kidney function.
  5. Having to urinate more often, especially at night, having a hard time or experiencing discomfort while urinating.
  6. Puffiness around eyes, swelling of hands and feet.

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