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Chronic Kidney Disease By Stefanie Meadows

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Chronic kidney disease affects more than 2 out of every 1,000 people in the United States which equates to about 26 million adults. This number does not include the numerous people who are at an increased risk of developing it. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the loss of kidney function over a period of months or years and usually happens quite slowly. In fact, it can happen so gradually that symptoms do not appear until the kidney is functioning at less than one-tenth the normal rate. The main function or job of the kidney is to remove wastes and excess water. Early detection is very important as if not treated chronic kidney disease progresses to end-stage renal disease or (ESRD).

High blood pressure and diabetes are the most common causes of chronic kidney disorder, but there are other diseases that can cause kidney damage such as toxic chemicals, trauma or injury, polycystic kidney disease (which is a birth defect), and kidney stones or infection. Also, any other disorders affecting urine flow or the arteries of the kidney. With CKD wastes and fluid build up in the body causing problems with bone and joint pain, anemia, changes in blood sugar, damage to nerves of legs and arms, fluid buildup around lungs, heart and blood vessel complications, malnutrition, seizures, swelling, infertility, and miscarriages just happen to be some of the complications. There is no cure for CKD, but with lifelong treatment end-stage renal disease can be avoided.

The symptoms to look for can be misleading as they are the same symptoms of a lot of other diseases. These signs may be the only clue one has until CKD is in a more advanced stage. They include appetite loss, fatigue, headaches, itching/dry skin, nausea, and weight loss that are not on purpose. When CKD has reached advanced stages the symptoms appear as abnormally light or dark skin, bone pain, drowsiness/confusion, numbness in extremities, breath odor, bruising easily, excessive thirst, and sleep issues just to name a few.  When these symptoms are present tests that are done to diagnose CKD include a nervous system exam, creatinine clearance and levels, glomerular filtration rate (GFR) which when combined with the other tests calculates the stage of CKD in and can aid in planning treatment options. Other tests like a CT scan or kidney biopsy can aid in checking specifics such as where the disease is in the kidney and what damage has been done.

Chronic kidney disease does not discriminate, but there are increased risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, family history of CKD, the elderly, and certain population groups that have high rates of diabetes and blood pressure. There are many pro-active options to prevent total kidney failure which leads to dialysis and then a kidney transplant. Controlling blood pressure and keeping it at or below 130/80 mmHg is key. This can be done by taking prescribed inhibitors/blockers, not smoking, eating meals that are low in fat and cholesterol, exercising regularly, controlling blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol, and avoiding eating potassium and salt. It’s also very important to check all prescription medications and any over-the-counter medicines to see if they can harm or affect your kidney in any way.

Common medicines, supplements, and herbal remedies that are taken every day without even thinking twice about can do great damage to someone with CKD. One common over-the-counter drug that is commonly taken for headaches, fever, pain, or colds is (NSAIDS) commonly known as ibuprofen and naproxen. Anyone with CKD also should make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations, especially the H1NI vaccine, Hepatitis A&B vaccine, Influenza vaccine, and the PPV vaccine.

Even though making all these lifestyle changes gives one a good chance of avoiding the advancement of CKD sometimes it progresses anyway. It’s a good idea to prepare for dialysis before it is needed including the different types of therapies, and how dialysis can be accessed as even those on a transplant waiting list may need treatments while they are waiting . Websites such as The National Kidney Foundation and National Kidney Disease Educational Program are great resources and help in finding support.



National Kidney Disease Education Program: http://www.nkdep.nih.gov/learnadditionalkidney-information.shtml 

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PubMed Health:http://www.ncbI.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001503

The National Kidney Foundation: http://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/aboutckd.cfm


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