Know Your Kidney

kidney specialist

What are the functions of kidneys?

Kidneys are the main excretory organ in your body, located one on each side of your abdomen just below the rib cage. They perform a wide range of functions that keep your internal systems balanced. Some notable functions are:

  • Filtering the blood of excess toxins and urea
  • Removes excess fluids
  • Regulates balance of important nutrients like calcium and potassium
  • Releases hormones that regulate Blood pressure
  • Regulates production of red blood cells from bone marrow

How kidneys perform their function?

  • Arterial blood from the heart enters the kidney
  • The blood flows under large pressure in the kidney’s filter system, thus filtering the blood from toxins
  • Toxins and waste materials are collected and transported to the urinary bladder
  • Clean blood is returned to the circulatory system through the vein
  • Continuous filtering leads to urinary bladder filling up and the body passes urine

Human kidneys filter about 200- quarts of fluid in a day (24 hours). Of this 198 quarts are recirculated in the body while 2 quarts are eliminated each day as urine

Understanding chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Chronic Kidney disease is longstanding damage to your kidneys that causes renal failure. Your kidneys fail to filter the waste in the blood, which keeps accumulating in the body leading to many complications.

CKD can range from mild to severe. Usually, there can be few or no symptoms in the mild type while kidney failure and cardiac arrest are possible in the severe type.

If detected early, CKD can be kept in control with medicinal as well as self-care procedures. However, in severe cases, kidney transplant or surviving on regular dialysis becomes necessary to maintain life.

The Facts About Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

  • If detected early, CKD can be controlled. CKD only leads to kidney failure in around 1 in 50 people
  • Cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke are one of the major causes of death in people with CKD, as it affects the heart and blood vessels.
  • Kidney functioning can be estimated using the Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
  • CKD risk is higher in people with a family history of diabetes, hypertension, and kidney failure
  • Doctors can tell if you have CKD using blood tests, Urine tests, and Ultrasound to look at your kidneys

What causes CKD?

The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases.

Diabetes happens when your blood sugar is too high, causing damage to many organs in your body, including the kidneys and heart, as well as blood vessels, nerves, and eyes.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels increases. If uncontrolled, or poorly controlled, high blood pressure can be a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney disease. Also, chronic kidney disease can cause high blood pressure.

Other conditions that affect the kidneys are:

  • High blood pressure – this puts stress on the blood capillaries in the kidney filters and can impair the functioning of kidneys
  • Diabetes – Having too much glucose in the blood is known to damage the kidney filters.
  • High cholesterol – when fatty deposits build up in your blood vessels, the blood supply to the kidney is impaired, making it harder for them to work properly
  • Glomerulonephritis – a disease that causes inflammation in the kidney’s small filters
  • Numerous kidney infections
  • Blockages to urine flow – Obstructions caused by kidney stones, tumours, or an enlarged prostate gland in men.
  • Polycystic kidney disease – development of cysts in the kidneys also impairs kidney function
  • Long term usage of certain drugs for e.g.: lithium and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

What are the symptoms of CKD?

A lot of people don’t develop noticeable symptoms when CKD is n the initial stages. Symptoms of mild Kidney problems are:

  • Feeling tired, fatigued and confused at all times
  • Trouble in staying alert
  • Needing to urinate several times in the night
  • Losing appetite or being less hungry
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick in your stomach
  • Bad taste in your mouth

In severe CKD, the symptoms are as follows:

  • Muscle weakness and twitching, sometimes cramps
  • Losing sensation in somebody extremities
  • Problems with thinking and being alert
  • Seizures and shortness of breath
  • White residue is left behind after you sweat
  • Having dry itchy skin

How will your doctor diagnose you have CKD?

  1. Calculate your Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) – it is a measure of the rate at which the kidney filters fluid. Your doctor can tell which stage of kidney damage you have based on the GFR. He can calculate it from the results of your blood creatinine test, your age, race, gender, and other factors.
  2. Perform an ultrasound or CT scan – this can help your doctor visualize the shape and size of your kidney, and pinpoint if you have stones or tumours in the urinary tract or kidneys.
  3. Kidney biopsy – a section of your kidney tissue is taken to profile for specific kinds of diseases or the extent of the damage.

How will your doctor treat chronic kidney disease?

Common treatment methods your doctor would monitor and implement are:

  • Put you on a special diet to limit your salt, phosphorus, and potassium intake
  • Limit the number of fluids you consume
  • Check if you are retaining fluid by keeping tabs on your weight
  • Medications to control your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Medication to balance the phosphorus and potassium levels in the blood
  • Dialysis in severe cases – to perform your kidney’s functions externally
  • Kidney transplant (severe cases) – replacement with a new kidney