March is National Kidney Month to Raise Awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which is mainly a “silent disease” without any symptoms. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), chronic kidney disease affects more than 30 million American adults, but most of them may not even be aware that they have CKD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 96% of the 30 million Americans who have CKD do not know they have it and only about 4.9 million people have been medically diagnosed with CKD.
Chronic Kidney Disease can only be Detected by a Simple Blood and Urine Test
Chronic kidney disease can only be detected by a simple blood and urine test and the National Kidney Awareness month is to impress upon people that they should ask their doctors about being tested for CKD. By the time that CKD does cause symptoms, the kidneys have suffered from major damage that cannot be reversed. However, if CKD is detected in its early stages before it shows symptoms, then it can usually be treated, so that it will not progress to kidney failure, which may need dialysis or a kidney transplant. The NIDDK recommends that everyone raise these three questions when they visit their doctor or healthcare provider:
- Have I been tested for kidney disease and how healthy are my kidneys?
- How often should I get my kidneys checked?
- What should I do to keep my kidneys healthy?
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD
Kidneys have the job of filtering the blood to remove wastes and extra water out of the blood and to make urine. Kidneys also have the job of keeping minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and electrolytes in balance. Electrolytes are the sodium (salt) and potassium in the blood. If levels of sodium and potassium become too low, this may be due to dehydration and this can be a life-threatening medical emergency. Also, if the levels of sodium and potassium become too high in the blood, this can also cause major medical problems. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means that the kidneys have become damaged and can no longer properly filter blood. You may feel fine, but blood tests will show things in the blood that should not be there because the kidneys can no longer filter them out.
Risks for Chronic Kidney Disease
Diabetes is the number one leading cause of CKD, as high blood sugar damages the blood vessels in the kidneys. According to the NIDDK, about one in three people who have diabetes also have CKD.
High blood pressure is the second leading cause for kidney disease, as high blood pressure damages the kidneys. However, chronic kidney disease also causes high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also a risk for heart disease and heart disease is also a risk for developing kidney disease.
Heart disease and kidney disease seem to go together and research has shown that people with heart disease are at a higher risk for kidney disease and people with kidney disease are at a higher rate for heart disease.
Kidney failure tends to run in families, so if there is a family history of kidney failure get tested and encourage other family members to get tested.
Obesity increases the risk for CKD and diabetes.
Aging seems to increase the risk for kidney disease, especially if you already have had high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease for a long time.
Some ethnic groups like African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans have a higher risk for CKD, probably because they also have a higher rate of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Symptoms of Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease
While early chronic kidney disease may go unnoticed because there are no symptoms, advanced kidney disease does have symptoms, but unfortunately by this time it is not possible to undo the damage that the kidneys have suffered. This is why it is so important to ask your doctor about testing you with a simple blood and urine test to show how your kidneys are functioning. Here are some of the symptoms of advanced CKD:
- Swelling or edema in the legs, feet, ankles and sometimes in the hands or face shows that the kidneys are having difficulty in getting rid of excess salt and fluid.
- Increased or decreased urination
- Nausea and vomiting, especially vomiting what looks like coffee grounds
- Weight loss and malnutrition
Treatment for CKD
Treatment usually is for managing symptoms like lowering blood pressure and keeping blood sugar at normal levels. Take the medicines that your doctor may prescribe. Also let your doctor know about any medicines, over-the-counter medicines or herbs and supplements you might be taking. Some over-the-counter drugs like Ibuprofen and Naproxen can lead to kidney failure.
Lifestyle changes may also help like:
- Drink plenty of pure water every day and avoid getting dehydrated.
- Follow a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat more fish and poultry and cut back on red meat. Avoid adding a lot of table salt to food and cut out salty foods like pickles and pretzels. Do not eat processed meats like ham, salami, hot dogs or corned beef, as they are loaded with salt and nitrates which are very hard on the kidneys.
- Stay physically active
- Quit smoking
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks, as alcohol raises blood pressure and strong alcoholic drinks, especially on an empty stomach irritate the kidneys.
- Cut down on coffee as coffee can raise blood pressure.
Long-term Skilled Nursing Care
If your loved one is in need of long-term skilled nursing care and has higher needs of medical and nursing services, the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers skilled nursing care at the hands of a warm and dedicated staff. Besides a doctor who is assigned to each unit, there are also consultant physicians in dermatology, podiatry, urology, ophthalmology, neurology, dentistry, surgical and ear, nose and throat (ENT).
Everyone should ask their doctor about having the simple blood and urine tests to see if they have chronic kidney disease, so that they can begin treatment and also make necessary lifestyle changes.