The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and keep the correct balance of fluid and salt in the body. Waste and extra fluid are flushed from the body as urine. When the kidneys are damaged, the waste builds up in the blood and can cause symptoms.
One in nine adults in the United States has chronic kidney disease. Another 20 million are at increased risk. Even small losses of kidney function can double a person’s risk of developing heart disease.
Chronic kidney disease usually does not happen suddenly. Small changes occur to the kidneys over several years as the disease progresses from earliest stages to a point when the kidneys fail and dialysis is needed.
Who is at Increased Risk?
The two major causes of kidney disease are:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
Approximately 80 percent of patients with chronic kidney disease have one or both of these conditions. Other risk factors include:
- Family history of chronic kidney disease
- Senior citizens
- Certain racial groups, especially African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanic-Americans and American Indians. African-Americans comprise one-third of all patients treated for kidney failure in the United States.
Symptoms of Kidney Failure
You may have chronic kidney disease if you are experiencing:
- High blood pressure
- Blood in urine
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Difficult or painful urination
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Swelling of hands and feet
Advanced signs of the disease include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite and change in taste
- Weight loss or gain
- Abnormal bleeding
- Trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath, frequent cough
- Muscle cramps
Three simple tests identify chronic kidney disease:
- Blood pressure testing
- A test to determine the amount of protein in the urine
- A blood test to measure how efficiently the kidneys filter waste
Slowing the Progression
If you are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, learning about the disease can help you keep your kidneys healthy. You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
- What percent of kidney function do I have now?
- What is the cause of my kidney problem?
- What can I do to keep my kidneys working as long as possible?
- What treatment is available for my symptoms?
- What are the next steps for my treatment?
To keep your disease in check, you should:
- Keep blood pressure within a healthy range
- Control blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
- Limit protein in your diet
- Consult your doctor about an exercise program
- If you smoke, quit
- Visit your doctor for regular checkups
It is important to identify and treat kidney problems early to help prevent the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure.
If you have one of the early or advanced signs, visit a doctor for some simple tests to determine if you have kidney disease.
For more information about DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s kidney disease services or a referral to a Sinai-Grace nephrologist, call 313-966-4800.