Did you know that your kidneys filter about 170 liters of blood every day? Probably not, but, that’s not the only thing kidneys do. These bean-shaped organs which are about the size of your fist perform many vital functions of the body. From getting rid of the waste to producing red blood cells to maintaining your blood pressure, your kidneys do quite a lot of jobs. Considering how important kidneys are, do you think you are taking proper care of them? Long term kidney damage can lead to severe diseases. Do you know what you should do if you’re diagnosed with one? Don’t panic yet as we’ve got you covered. Here’s a handy guidebook that’ll help you learn about kidney diseases and what you can do to keep them at bay.
What are kidney diseases?
Your kidneys are mainly responsible for filtering and removing the waste (excess water, impurities, toxins) from the body in the form of urine via the bladder. They also regulate salt, potassium and pH in your body, produce red blood cells and hormones that regulate blood pressure and uptake calcium absorption.
However, certain medical conditions or long-term use of medicines can gradually deteriorate kidney health. Most people may not notice that their kidney function is declining as the symptoms are not very noticeable in the beginning. The situation may remain stable for some people while it may rapidly worsen for others. All kinds of kidney impairment, whether it is a slight decline or life-threatening where regular dialysis or a transplant is needed, are described as Chronic Kidney Diseases.
Symptoms of kidney diseases
Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney diseases develop as the condition progresses. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Swollen feet or ankles
- Frequent urination
- Fluid retention
- High potassium levels
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- High blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
Since your kidneys are highly adaptable, they learn to compensate for the damage without showing any signs. So, the above given symptoms may only appear when irreversible damage has occurred. Sometimes, these symptoms may appear because of some other health issues. So, rather than performing a self-diagnosis it is better to get your health checkup done which includes a kidney function test.
Causes of kidney diseases
There are many causes of kidney diseases. Your kidney function may be impacted because of certain health issues or it may run in your family. Some common causes of kidney diseases are:
- Diabetes – Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney diseases. High sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the kidneys making them incapable of performing their functions.
- High blood pressure– High blood pressure or hypertension is the second leading cause of kidney disorders. The increased pressure of the blood puts the tiny blood vessels of the kidneys under stress and kidney functions start to decline.
- Glomerulonephritis– Glomeruli are tiny filtering units of the kidney. Glomerulonephritis is the inflammation of glomeruli. It can be caused by infections, drugs or abnormalities at the time of birth, resulting in ineffective kidneys.
- Polycystic kidney disease– Polycystic kidney disease is a common inherited kidney disorder where multiple cysts develop in the kidneys that enlarge over time resulting in serious kidney damage.
- Kidney stones– Kidney stones are a common kidney problem. They are formed when minerals and other substances in the blood crystallize. They often come out of the body through urination (which can be painful). In case they are too large to pass, treatments may be done to break them or surgically remove them.
- Urinary tract infection– Urinary tract infections are bacterial infections that can occur in any part of the urinary system. These infections are treatable but if left untreated, can spread to the kidneys resulting in kidney failure.
- Drugs and toxins– Taking pain relievers in large amounts, toxins, pesticides and certain other medicines can also become the cause of kidney impairment.
Consequences of untreated kidney diseases
If kidney disorders are left untreated they can cause irreversible damage to the kidney which may eventually make dialysis or a kidney transplant necessary for survival. Other than that, untreated kidney disease could also lead to these complications:
- Rise of potassium in the body which can disturb the heart’s functions and may be life-threatening.
- Weaker bones and increased risk of fractures.
- Anaemia due to low red blood cells.
- Fluid retention, which can lead to swollen arms, legs, high blood pressure or fluid in the lungs.
- Erectile dysfunction or reduced fertility.
- Damage to the central nervous system
- Decreased immunity
- Pregnancy complications
- Inflammation of the saclike membrane which envelops the heart
Understanding test reports
To identify kidney disorders your doctor may recommend a kidney function test (KFT). This test includes the parameters mentioned below. The following table will help you understand your test reports. (Reference range may vary from lab to lab)
|Blood urea||15.0 – 40.0 mg/dl|
|Serum creatinine||0.46 – 1.20 mg/dl|
|Serum uric acid||2.6 – 6.0 mg/dl|
|Serum calcium||8.6 – 10.2 mg/dl|
|Serum phosphorus||2.5 – 4.5 mg/dl|
|Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)||7.0 – 18.0 mg/dl|
|Serum sodium||136 – 145 mmol/L|
|Serum potassium||3.5 – 5.1 mmol/L|
|Serum chloride||98 – 107 mmol/L|
|Bun/Creatinine ratio||12:1 – 20:1|
Frequency of the test
- People who test negative for the test and have healthy kidneys are advised to go for KFT every 6 months.
- Those suffering from stage 1 chronic kidney disorder are advised to go for KFT every month.
- Those suffering from stage 5 chronic kidney disorder are advised to go for KFT weekly.
- Those who are on dialysis have to go for KFT twice or thrice a week. A fresh kidney report is required before every dialysis.
- Elders with low potassium are also advised to go to KFT every week.
Lifestyle recommendations to manage kidney diseases
Kidneys are an essential part of your body. So, what should you do to keep them healthy? If you have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, then your doctor will inform you about your treatment options. Otherwise, with little lifestyle modification you can prevent your kidneys from getting damaged. Given recommendations might help you do that:
- Include fruits like apples, red grapes, strawberries, cherries and watermelon in your diet.
- Diet should also include vegetables like spinach, onion, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, beans, and
- Make coriander part of your regular meals.
- Drink more water and stay hydrated at all times.
- Reduce your salt intake.
- Reduce your protein intake.
- Avoid consuming alcohol.
- Workout regularly and avoid sedentary lifestyle.
- Make Yoga part of your lifestyle. Asanas like naukasana, bhujangasana and salamba bhujangasana can be helpful.
- Avoid over the counter medicines for pain.
It is advisable that before making any sudden changes to your diet and lifestyle, visit your doctor and get your health checkup done. This way, you can be sure that the modifications will only benefit you and they’ll not become the cause of other health issues.
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