Our kidneys are responsible for a variety of critical tasks, including blood filtration, regulation of blood pressure and haemoglobin levels. Kidney failure, also known as Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), implies permanent damage which is both progressive and irreversible, to the kidneys. This disease impairs all the functions of the kidneys. This results in increased kidney damage and worsening of blood pressure, anemia and bone disease.
What are the main causes of Kidney Failure?
There are several answers which can explain how kidney failure occurs. These risk factors are:
- Diabetes: The foremost risk factor for CKD is diabetes. In this case, due to a lack of awareness and proactive approach regarding regular health checks, diabetes is detected during the later stages, by which time other organs like the kidneys will have been affected.
- Hypertension: When uncontrolled, is a very high-risk factor for kidney failure. On the other hand, when hypertension is under control, it is not much of a risk factor.
- Family History: A family history of renal dysfunction increases the risk of getting affected by
chronic kidney disease.
- Infections: Recurrent urinary or kidney infection are also red flags for this disease.
- Over-the-counter medications: Popping pills without a qualified doctor’s supervision can not only wreak havoc with the kidneys but also cause many other harmful side-effects.
- Glomerular disease: The presence of proteins in the urine is a tell-tale sign of impending kidney damage, and if undetected and untreated, even kidney failure.
What are the signs that something is wrong with your kidneys?
The common signs and symptoms include:
- Unexplained anemia
- Problems getting sleep
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in urine
- Swelling of feet and the face
- Recurrent vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
Usually, by the time the symptoms appear and the patient visits the doctor, the kidney is already significantly damaged. This is the reason one should not wait for the symptoms to appear to get his/her kidneys evaluated and checked.
How can you detect kidney failure Early?
Getting diagnosed early on before it aggravates is vital to stop the further progression of this disease. The diagnostic techniques include:
- Blood Tests: To assess the presence and level of substances like urea and creatinine.
- Urine Tests: These are carried out to check the levels of albumin, creatinine and blood proteins in the
urine to determine how well the kidneys are functioning.
- Imaging Tests: CT Scan, MRI scan and ultrasound can help give a picture of the kidneys and help look for any blockages or abnormalities.
- Biopsy: A small sample of the kidney is extracted and is analysed in a laboratory.
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What are the treatment options for Kidney Failure?
The treatment for CKD depends on the stage of the disease.
- The first three stages are early onset stages where the underlying cause must be treated and no specific medicines for kidney failure is administered. For example, if a person has diabetes, the blood sugar levels must be kept under control. The same applies to high blood pressure as well.
- Quitting smoking is a very important step. Any instances of kidney or urinary infections must be looked into at the earliest.
- In the advanced stages, the kidney function may be reduced by as much as 60-70%. In these cases, there should be more emphasis on controlling the blood pressure and things which are harmful to the kidneys.
- There are certain medications such as Angiostein-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and Angiostein Receptor Blockers which are proven to prevent further progression.
- In stage 5, where the kidney damage exceeds 80-90%, medications do not have any effect and the only solutions are either dialysis or, if the patient is fit enough, a kidney transplant.
- Exercise can indirectly help people affected by CKD as it helps control the blood pressure, sugar levels, keeps the weight under control, all of which help in preventing further progression of this disease. Moderate exercises like walking, cycling etc. for about 150 to 180 minutes a week is definitely beneficial in the early stages.
- As the kidney disease worsens beyond stage 4, the prospect of kidney failure becomes very real and it needs to be controlled with specific medications and certain dietary changes such as reduced salt and fluid intake and checking for any signs of heart problems. When the kidney fails, the only treatment options are dialysis and kidney transplant.