What is kidney disease?
What are the kidneys and what do they do?
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located just below the ribs, one on each side of the spine. Your kidneys filter extra water and “waste” substances out of your blood and make urine. Your kidneys also help control blood pressure and make hormones that your body needs to stay healthy. When the kidneys are damaged, “waste” substances can build up in the body and cause health problems.
Why are the kidneys important?
The kidneys are important because they keep the composition, or makeup, of the blood healthy and stable, which lets the body function. They:
• Prevent the buildup of waste substances that are produced by the body, and gets rid of extra fluid in the body.
• Keep levels of electrolytes stable, such as sodium, potassium, and phosphate.
• Make hormones that help regulate blood pressure.
• Make red blood cells.
• Help bones stay strong.
What is kidney disease?
Kidney disease means that the kidneys are damaged and their ability to filter blood is decreased to less than normal. This damage can cause the buildup of “waste” substances in the body. This can cause problems that can harm your health.
For most people, kidney damage occurs slowly over many years, often due to diabetes or high blood pressure. This is called chronic kidney disease. When someone has a sudden change in kidney function—because of illness, or injury, or have taken certain medications—this is called acute kidney injury. This can occur in a person with normal kidneys or in someone who already has kidney problems.
Kidney disease is a growing problem. More than 20 million Americans may have kidney disease and many more are at risk. Anyone can develop kidney disease, regardless of age or race. The main risk factors for developing kidney disease are:
• High blood pressure.
• Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease.
• A family history of kidney failure.
What are the symptoms of kidney disease?
Early kidney disease has no signs or symptoms. You may not feel any different until your kidney disease is very advanced. Blood and urine tests are the only way to know if you have kidney disease. Common blood test for kidney function are creatinine and blood urea nitrogen, from which doctors can checksyour glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which tells how well your kidneys are filtering. Urine tests can check if protein levels in the urine are too high, which shows that the kidneys are damaged.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease. Although you may have no signs or symptoms of early kidney disease, these conditions can slowly damage the kidneys over many years. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, speak to your doctor about getting tested for kidney disease. Fortunately, both diabetes and high blood pressure have good treatments nowadays, and these treatments can help prevent of slow kidney disease.
Can kidney disease be treated?
Kidney disease can be treated if detected early. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help delay or prevent kidney failure. Treatment may include taking medicines to manage high blood pressure and keep your kidneys healthier longer. Treating kidney disease may also help prevent heart disease.
While it can be treated, kidney disease usually does not go away. Instead, it may get worse over time and can lead to kidney failure. If the kidneys fail, treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary, but this is a terminal stage that can be avoided in most cases with treatment of risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Kidney disease can also be accompanied by other health conditions including heart disease. In fact, people with kidney disease are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack.
Did You Know?
• Every day, the two kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine, composed of wastes and extra fluid.
• The kidneys are important because they keep the composition, or makeup, of the blood stable, which lets the body function.
• Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease. These conditions can slowly damage the kidneys over many years. Fortunately, diabetes and high blood pressure can be prevented, and if present, can be treated very well, avoiding the advance to severe kidney disease.