According to the National Kidney Foundation, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) currently impacts over 30 million Americans, and this disease is a result of the gradual loss of kidney function, over time.
Direct causes of CKD include hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The disease can get worse over a period of time, and it is possible, but rare, for the kidneys to stop functioning completely. Proper treatment, dietary medications, follow up with a medical professional, and appropriate care individuals with CKD can lead healthy lives with minimal complications.
Many individuals do not experience symptoms in early stages, however with progression of this early stage kidney disease symptoms may include fatigue, tiredness, swollen lower extremities, shortness of breath, nausea, and blood in the urine.
CKD is a lifelong condition requiring regular medical check ups and the monitoring of kidney function by a professional medical provider. Individuals with CKD have an increased risk for cardiovascular issues, including heart attacks, and strokes. Regular appointments may discover and possibly prevent complications.
There are five stages of CKD. Stage 1 and 2 will present with a mild decline in kidney function; stage 3 will indicate a moderate decline in kidney function; stage 4 indicates a severe decline in kidney function; with stage 5 progressing into end stage renal disease (ESRD) requiring dialysis.
ESRD is the last stage of chronic kidney disease and there is no cure for this disease. There are some treatments and surgeries to extend life expectancy.
Kidney failure also creates an inability of the body to fulfill other functions, such as controlling blood pressure, strengthening bones, and producing new red blood cells, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, reduced appetite, itchiness, insomnia, joint pain and stiffness, confusion, memory loss, and headaches. All medical issues which require close medical follow up and care.
The most common cause of ESRD is diabetes, with the disease progression weakening the kidneys over time, eventually significantly reducing or impeding their function. The second most common cause for this disease is hypertension.
Other causes for CKD and ESRD include severe urinary tract problems, heart attack, drug misuse, and reduced blood flow to the kidneys. Kidneys filter wastes, electrolytes through the blood filtering process. In some cases, kidneys suddenly and acutely fail, as quickly as within two days. Having ESRD is also associated with frequent hospitalizations, higher healthcare costs, and metabolic changes.
To assess kidney failure a medical provider runs tests to see how well the individual’s kidneys are functioning, and if the functionality is 15% or less than the normal rate the individual is considered to have end stage renal disease. These tests may include a kidney ultrasound, a biopsy, blood tests to check electrolyte levels, albumin, creatine and any presence of anemia.
ESRD may require dialysis or a kidney transplant, or, alternatively, medications. changes to diet and lifestyle in coordination their healthcare team. The best prevention is a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding excess sweetened food or drinks, staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep each day, as well as managing stress levels.
Betty Cohn is a retired registered nurse with 35 years of experience in the medical field in a variety of roles. She will write a semi-monthly column about medical-related topics and welcomes questions and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.