April 20, 2023
How to Prevent Kidney Failure
Kidney disease is a common condition in the United States. The CDC estimates that over 37 million people have chronic kidney disease, and many do not know that they have it. While it is not curable, chronic kidney disease can be treated to slow the progression of the disease.
If you are at higher risk for chronic kidney disease, you can take steps now to prevent developing kidney failure.
What Is Kidney Disease?
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter waste out of your blood. When they are functioning normally, they clean all the blood in your body every 30 minutes. They remove waste, toxins, and excess fluid materials from your bloodstream. You then excrete the unneeded materials as urine.
Any decrease in kidney function is considered chronic kidney disease, sometimes also called kidney failure. Your kidneys cannot filter out all the waste materials in your blood, so they remain in your body. The damage associated with chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, and without proper diagnosis and treatment, kidney disease will progress. Your kidneys will continue to get less effective over time, potentially leading to complete renal failure.
In addition, chronic kidney disease can affect other aspects of your health, leading to conditions such as:
- Higher risk of infection
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Loss of appetite and risk of malnutrition from eating less
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
If kidney disease isn’t addressed, the kidneys will gradually stop working completely. Complete renal failure is fatal unless you receive dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
The very first stages of kidney idea may not cause any noticeable symptoms. You may only become aware of a problem with your kidneys if you have a routine urine test that shows increased protein in your urine. Since the kidneys are supposed to remove protein, any sign of protein in urine is a signal that your kidneys are not functioning properly.
As kidney disease progresses, you may notice symptoms such as:
- Decreased appetite
- Sleep changes
- Increased or decreased urination
- Difficulty concentrating or reduced mental focus
- Muscle cramps
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Dry, itchy skin
- High blood pressure
Kidney disease can cause fluid to build up in the chest and abdomen. This can result in pressure, shortness of breath, or chest pain. If you notice new or worsening soreness or breath or chest pain, call for immediate help. It could be a sign of a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or blood clot, as well as a symptom of kidney disease.
Risk Factors of Kidney Disease
Some health conditions can make you more susceptible to chronic kidney disease. If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, you should speak to your doctor about how to manage your risk of kidney disease.
- Diabetes: Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of kidney disease. Diabetes can affect multiple organ systems in your body, including your kidneys. You may develop kidney damage due to damage to the blood vessels in your kidneys or complications due to poorly controlled blood sugar levels.
- High blood pressure or heart disease: High blood pressure and heart disease can affect the force of blood moving through your body. This can damage the vessels in your kidneys, leading to chronic kidney disease,
- Pre-existing kidney conditions: People with certain health conditions that affect the kidneys are at an increased risk of long-term kidney damage and kidney failure. Conditions such as glomerulonephritis, interstitial nephritis, polycystic kidney disease, abnormal kidney structure, or other inherited kidney diseases or a history of recurrent kidney infections are all risk factors for chronic kidney disease.
- Urinary tract conditions: Health conditions that lead to long-term obstruction of the urinary tract can contribute to the risk of chronic kidney disease. Conditions such as an enlarged prostate, a history of kidney stones, vesicoureteral, and some cancers can affect urinary tract health and kidney health.
Other factors can increase your risk of kidney disease, such as:
- A family history of kidney disease
- Use of medications associated with kidney damage
People of Black, Native American, or Asian American backgrounds may also have an increased risk of kidney disease.
How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
You can reduce your risk of kidney disease with lifestyle choices, as well as by managing underlying health conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and controlling blood pressure can help reside the risk of chronic kidney disease. Smoking can exacerbate kidney problems and other health issues, so it is wise to quit smoking.
If you have diabetes, make sure you maintain healthy blood sugar levels through diet or the use of medication, including insulin, if necessary. If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to make a treatment plan. Reducing blood pressure via diet and exercise, as well as through the use of medication, may reduce your risk of developing kidney disease.
If you have underlying risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting tested regularly for chronic kidney disease. You may also need a referral to a kidney specialist to monitor your kidney health. You can also talk to a dietician about a kidney-healthy eating plan to reduce your risk of kidney disease or slow the progression of existing kidney disease.
How to Manage Kidney Disease
If you are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, your doctor will work with you to manage your condition.6 If you are still in the earliest phases of chronic kidney disease, you may be able to control it with lifestyle changes. Your doctor can recommend a kidney-friendly diet. They may suggest that you maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, reduce or eliminate alcohol, and make sure you get adequate amounts of physical activity. If you have conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, you should make sure they are well managed, as improperly treated high blood pressure or diabetes can make chronic kidney disease worse.
Your doctor will review any medications you are currently taking to determine if any of them could be aggravating your kidney disease. You may need to change medications to protect your kidney health while still managing other health conditions. Your doctor may add medications such as certain blood pressure medications, which have been shown to slow the progress of chronic kidney disease.
If your kidney disease progresses, you may need to take medication to manage symptoms such as swelling and anemia. If you reach the stage of renal failure, you will need dialysis treatment. With dialysis, you are connected to a machine that removes the waste from your blood. It takes several hours, and you may need multiple treatments per week.
You may become eligible for a kidney transplant. Surgeons can place a kidney from a donor into your body. It will take over the work of your kidneys. You will need to take anti-rejection medications for the rest of your life to ensure that your body accepts the new kidney.
If you have questions about your kidney health, talk to your doctor. They can help you decide what testing and treatment you need to ensure that your kidneys stay healthy.
- “Chronic Kidney Disease Basics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 28, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/basics.html
- “Chronic Kidney Disease: Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic. September 3, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354521
- “Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. October 2016. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/prevention
- “Chronic Kidney Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment.” Mayo Clinic. September 3, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354527
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