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Kidney Care

According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), 30 million Americans (1 in 7 U.S. adult population) suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD) and millions of others are at increased risk.

Between the ages of 30 and 40, about two-thirds of the people undergo a gradual decline in the rate at which the kidneys filter blood. This is true even for those who do not have kidney disease.

Kidney disease (acute or chronic) often has no symptoms until it is very advanced. The non-specific nature of symptoms of kidney disease makes detection a big challenge, especially in early stages. This is why regular, routine blood and urine tests are crucial in detecting kidney disease and dysfunction. The good news is; we can treat or decrease the progression of the kidney disease if caught early.

What are the symptoms of kidney disease?

Kidney disease (acute or chronic) often has no symptoms until it is very advanced. With kidney disease, you may notice the following:

  • Feeling more tired or have less energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Puffiness around eyes, especially in the morning
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Rash
  • No urine output or high urine output
  • Blood in the urine
  • Multiple joints that hurt

What can cause kidney disease?

In the United States, the two leading causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. When these two diseases are controlled by treatment, the associated kidney disease can often be prevented or slowed down.

Diabetes: About 1/3 of the people with diabetes develop kidney disease. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure. People with diabetes should get tested for kidney disease every year and should take active measures to control blood sugar and blood pressure.

Hypertension: Hypertension, better known as high blood pressure, has been called a silent killer because most people don’t recognize they have it since there are generally no symptoms or warning signs. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the second most common reason for kidney failure.

Drugs: NSAIDs and some antibiotics are among the drugs that can cause kidney disease. The mechanisms by which these drugs can cause kidney disease vary. So, each patient and healthy person needs to ask his/her healthcare provider before taking any medication.

Infections: Systemic infections and urinary tract infections can cause kidney disease through different mechanisms.

Glomerulonephritis: A large group of kidney diseases that involves the glomeruli (kidney filters).

Polycystic Kidney Disorder: A genetic disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within the kidneys, leading to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Nephrotic Syndrome: A syndrome in which the kidney filters insufficiently filter waste products (toxins) and excess fluids from the blood. In this syndrome, the kidney filters leak a significant amount of proteins in the urine, which can result in kidney injury, swollen tissues, malnutrition, and decrease immunity among other problems.

Nephritic Syndrome: A syndrome in which the kidney filters become inflamed. This inflammation causes the kidneys to work less effectively. It also causes protein and red blood cells to leak from the bloodstream into the urine. 

Amyloidosis: A disease characterized by an abnormal buildup of proteins (called amyloid) in various organs in the body including the kidneys.

Urinary obstruction: Urinary stream obstruction (caused by a stone, tumor or enlarged prostate in men) can cause kidney disease

What increases my risks of kidney disease?

Kidney disease often occurs in connection with another medical condition or event. Factors that can increase your risk of kidney disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • Heart and blood vessel (Cardiovascular) disease
  • High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia)
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Abnormal kidney structure
  • Old age

What can I do to prevent kidney disease?

Kidney disease is often hard to detect or prevent, but you may reduce your risk by taking care of your kidneys. To reduce your risk of developing kidney disease:

  • Ask your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medications. Some of these medicines may contribute to kidney disease and injuries
  • Get an annual physical
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking can damage your kidneys and make existing kidney damage worse
  • Manage your medical conditions with your healthcare providers help. If you have diseases or conditions that increase your risk of kidney disease, work with your healthcare provider to control them.

How are kidney disorders diagnosed?

If you are experiencing any symptoms, see your healthcare provider for an expert diagnosis. At St. Claire, we use a variety of diagnostic methods, including blood tests, urine tests and kidney imaging studies, to confirm a diagnosis of kidney disease.

What do the kidneys do?

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine.

The kidneys play major roles in the following:

  • Excrete waste products (toxins) and excess fluid out of the body through the urine.
  • Regulate the concentrations of multiple electrolytes and minerals such as sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Such minerals are very important in maintaining the functions of the heart and brain. 
  • Release hormones that regulate blood pressure.
  • Regulate the concentration of elements involved in bone health such as parathyroid hormone, vitamin-D, calcium and phosphorus. Abnormal concentrations of such elements can cause weak bones, bone pain, fractures and vascular calcifications.
  • Play a major role in hemoglobin formation. Kidney dysfunction can result in anemia (low hemoglobin).
  • Dispose of excess acids building up in the body from food and tissue metabolism. High levels of acid can cause cardiac arrest, respiratory failure and severe mental deterioration.

St. Claire Nephrology specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases and disorders. Patients are seen by physician referral; new patients are welcome. For more information, please call 606.780.5502.