THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FROM THE NATIONAL KIDNEY DISEASE EDUCATION PROGRAM
WHAT IS KIDNEY DISEASE?
- Kidney disease results from damage to the nephrons, the tiny structures inside your kidneys that filter blood.
- Usually, the damage occurs very gradually over the years. It happens in both kidneys.
- There aren’t any obvious symptoms, so you don’t know it is happening.
COMMON CAUSES OF KIDNEY DISEASE
- Diabetes: In diabetes, the body doesn’t use glucose (sugar) very well. The glucose stays in your blood and acts like a poison. If you have diabetes, you can prevent kidney disease by controlling your blood sugar levels.
- High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in your kidneys. When this happens, your kidneys cannot filter wastes from your blood very well. If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), be sure to take any medicines your doctor prescribes.
- Heredity: Some kidney disease result from hereditary factors, and can run in families. If your family has a history of any kind of kidney problems, you may be at risk for kidney disease and should talk to your doctor.
HOW CAN MY DOCTOR TELL IF I HAVE KIDNEY DISEASE?
Early kidney disease is a silent problem, like high blood pressure, and does not have any symptoms. You may have it, but not know it, because you don’t feel sick.
To detect the disease, doctors can do very simple tests that include:
- Measure the level of serum creatinine in your blood to estimate your glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
- Measure the level of protein in your urine (increased levels of protein show your kidneys are not working properly).
- Checking your blood pressure.
IF I HAVE KIDNEY DISEASE, HOW CAN IT BE TREATED?
Unfortunately, kidney disease often cannot be cured, but if you are in the early stages of kidney disease, you may be able to make your kidneys last longer by taking certain steps. You will also want to be sure that risks for heart attacks and stroke are minimized since kidney patients are susceptible to these problems as well.
Steps you can take:
- If you have diabetes, watch your blood glucose closely to keep it under control. Consult with your doctor for the latest in treatment.
- People with reduced kidney function should have their blood pressure controlled, and an ACE inhibitor or an ARB should be one of their medications. Many people will require two or more types of medication to keep the blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg. A diuretic is an important addition to the ACE inhibitor or ARB.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY KIDNEYS FAIL COMPLETELY?
Complete and irreversible kidney failure is sometimes called end-stage renal disease, or ESRD. If your kidneys stop working completely, your body fills with extra water and waste products. This condition is called uremia. Your hands or feet may swell. You will feel tired and weak because your body needs clean blood to function properly.
Untreated uremia may lead to seizures or coma and will ultimately result in death. If your kidneys stop working completely, you will need to undergo dialysis or kidney transplantation.
For more information about kidney disease, please visit The National Kidney Disease Education Program at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information OR contact one of our offices at the numbers provided.