Understanding the Seriousness of Kidney Disease
Kidney disease is not something that can appear overnight. It comes in stages and recognizing your CKD/ Chronic Kidney Stage is the crucial part of determining which treatment will be best for you. CKD has 5 stages that range from the nearly-normal kidney function (Stage-1) up to kidney failure that requires dialysis / transplant (Stage-5). Understanding what your stage is can help you understand how to take control & put brakes on the progression of the condition.
What causes it?
There are two conditions that can have a very negative impact on your kidneys. High blood pressure & diabetes can work in tandem and damage the blood vessels in your kidneys. The 4 factors that can help you keep a handle on these two culprits and help you improve your quality of life are:
- Early detection
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Eating healthy
- Exercising regularly
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Recognizing the kidney disease symptoms can help in early detection and timely treatment. The common symptoms of CKD are:
- Changes in urination- Either more/less urine than usual or a color change, bubbly/ foamy urine, pressure while passing urine
- Swelling- The ankles, feet, face or hands may swell-up. When the kidneys are unable to get rid of fluid it can accumulate in various tissues in the body
- Fatigue/Weakness- When the kidneys start to fail, the build-up of wastes/ shortage of RBC(anaemia)can result in weakness or fatigue
- Shortness of Breath- Fluid build-up in the lungs that is caused by kidney failure may be confused with heart failure or asthma
- Ammonia breath/ Ammonia or Metallic Taste in Mouth- The waste that builds up in the body may result in changes in taste, bad breath or even an aversion to certain protein foods such as meat
- Flank/ Back Pain- The kidneys are situated on either side at the back of the spine and can cause this pain
- Itching- Any kind of waste build-up can result in severe itching, mainly in the legs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Diabetics might experience more hypoglycaemic episodes
If you notice any of these signs of kidney problems, it is important that you consult your doctor about them. This is even more crucial of you have high blood pressure or diabetes or even if a very close family member has kidney disease.
Kidney Function Tests
If you suffer from any of the symptoms of kidney problems, your doctor will ask for a few tests to be conducted which will determine how your kidneys are functioning and what the extent of the damage is.
- Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate or eGFR – This is one of the most effective kidney function tests. It indicates exactly how effectively your kidneys are functioning and if they are cleaning the blood in the manner they should
- Creatinine – This is a waste product that is formed by the muscles in your body. Under normal circumstances, the kidneys filter it from the blood and it is then expelled from the system via the urine. If the kidneys are not functioning right, the creatinine remains in the blood. The levels of this product in the blood will vary with gender, age & body weight. This also means that it is not the most accurate method of measuring the overall kidney function. If a person is on dialysis, his/her creatinine levels will always be high
- Urea- This waste product is formed when the body breaks-down protein. Higher levels of urea indicate decreased kidney function
- In addition to the tests that have just been mentioned, some urine tests may also be conducted:
- Albumin Creatinine Ratio- This test measures how much albumin is leaking into the urine when the kidneys are damaged. If the amount of albumin is small, it is called microalbuminuria, whilst if the levels are higher, it is called macroalbuminuria
- Urinalysis- This test is conducted for the detection of medical conditions such as kidney and liver disease, urinary tract infections and diabetes. This is also used to visually examine for clearness and colour.
Kidney disease is progressive in nature. Being aware about the symptoms will urge you to seek medical help. In effect, this will help you nip the problem in the bud.