Care for Your Kidney
Why Think About Kidney Disease?
A Growing Health Problem
"About 26 million American adults have chronic kidney disease with about 350,000 in the final stages of the disease, requiring dialysis or transplantation," says UVA’s Mark D. Okusa, MD, chief of UVA’s Division of Nephrology, the branch of medicine focused on kidney (or renal) disease.
“Another 20 or 30 million people in the United States have reduced kidney function. By 2020, kidney disease could double or even triple and will be a huge public health issue,” he says.
A Stealthy Disease and its Consequences
Kidney disease may be easy to miss at the outset. The main symptoms of kidney disease only appear in the later stages of the disease.
Untreated, kidney disease leads to:
- Abnormally low levels of calcium phosphate and vitamin D, causing poor bone health
- An increased risk of early death, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure
- Complications such as uremic syndrome (where levels of toxins rise in the bloodstream)
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Fluid imbalances
This is why screening is critical. An early diagnosis means steps can be taken to prevent the disease from getting worse.
Are You at Risk for Kidney Disease?
Take a look at the risk factors and consider getting screened if you have:
- Diabetes (about one-third of people with diabetes will develop kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation)
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Recurring kidney infections
- Urinary track blockages
According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic kidney disease may also result from:
- A direct and forceful blow to the kidneys
- Prolonged consumption of some over-the-counter painkillers that combine aspirin, acetaminophen, and other medicines such as ibuprofen
- Family history of kidney disease
Risk Factors? Symptoms? Time to Get Screened
Simple blood and urine tests can reveal early signs of kidney disease. Protein in urine signals that a person’s kidneys aren't eliminating wastes as they should.
You should also see a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms:
- Increased urination (especially at night)
- Blood in your urine
- Swelling of hands, feet and eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Weight loss
- Muscle twitching and cramping
Get screened at a kidney clinic near you.
Steps to Prevent Kidney Disease
While some kidney disorders cannot be prevented, taking steps to develop a healthier lifestyle may help you lower your risk for certain diseases. Here are a few tips to care for or prevent kidney disease:
- Monitor blood pressure. If your blood pressure is elevated, check with your doctor about high blood pressure medications and the benefits of healthier lifestyle choices, such as a low-salt and heart-friendly diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking and losing weight.
- Monitor cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels can be managed through medications when necessary, as well as diet and lifestyle changes.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid prolonged use of ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In patients with kidney disease, these types of medications may increase blood pressure and lead to kidney failure.
- Take steps to prevent bone disease. Patients who have kidney disease also are at risk for bone disease. Monitor closely your calcium, phosphate and vitamin D intake.
- Talk to your doctor about medication dosages. For patients with reduced kidney function, some medications that would normally be excreted by the kidneys may accumulate in the body and lead to side effects.