If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from kidney problems, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to improve your condition. You’re not alone – kidney disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. But don’t worry, there are many things you can do to help keep your kidneys functioning properly and improve your overall health. Let’s explore.
The Types of Kidney Problems
There are two main types of kidney problems: acute and chronic. Acute kidney problems can be caused by a variety of factors, including infection, dehydration, and even certain medications. These problems can often be quickly and easily treated, and most people recover completely. Acute kidney problems can range from mild to severe, and treatment depends on the underlying cause. Sometimes, mild infections may resolve on their own; however, in some cases, it can also lead to chronic kidney disease.
Chronic kidney problems, on the other hand, are usually the result of long-term damage to the kidneys, which might result in the need for dialysis treatment. This damage can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, or even genetic disorders. Chronic kidney problems cannot be cured, but they can be managed with treatment. If left untreated, chronic kidney disease (CKD) can progress to stage 5 kidney failure, the most severe stage, where the kidneys can no longer perform their essential functions. At this stage, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary to sustain life.
Causes of Kidney Problems
There are many different things that can cause kidney problems. Some of the most common include:
Infection: A bacterial or viral infection can cause inflammation and damage to the kidneys.
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration, which can then cause kidney problems.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as painkillers, can damage the kidneys.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to kidney problems.
- High blood pressure: This is another condition that can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys.
Symptoms of Kidney Problems
The symptoms of kidney problems vary depending on the type and severity of the problem. Some common symptoms include pain in the side or lower back, swelling in the ankles, feet, or legs, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and difficulty urinating. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away. Kidney problems can often be managed effectively if they are caught early. Make sure to see a doctor if you think you might be at risk for kidney problems.
Treating Kidney Problems
The best way to treat kidney problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place. That means making healthy lifestyle choices and managing any underlying medical conditions that might lead to kidney damage. If you already have kidney problems, there are many things you can do to help manage your condition and improve your health. These include taking medications as prescribed, making dietary changes, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and managing any underlying medical conditions. In extreme cases, removing the kidney might be necessary if the damage is too great.
How Does Dialysis Work?
There are two types of dialysis, hemodialysis, and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis removes waste and water from your blood using a filter. Peritoneal dialysis removes waste and excess water from your blood using the lining of your abdomen as a natural filter.
- In hemodialysis, a machine filters your blood outside of your body. You’re connected to the machine by two thin tubes called catheters that are inserted into large veins in your neck or arm. Your blood flows through one of the catheters into the dialysis machine. The machine removes waste and excess water from your blood and returns the clean blood back to your body through the other catheter.
- During peritoneal dialysis, a liquid called dialysate flows into your abdomen through a catheter. The dialysate absorbs waste and excess water from your blood. Then, it’s drained from your abdomen and taken to a machine where the waste and water are removed. The clean dialysate is returned to your abdomen through the catheter.
No matter which type of dialysis you have, you’ll need to have treatments several times a week. Each treatment lasts about 4 hours, but you may be able to have shorter treatments more often. You may have to stay in the hospital for a short time when you first start dialysis. After that, you can have treatments at a dialysis center or at home. If you have peritoneal dialysis, you’ll need to take special care of your catheter to prevent infection. Your doctor will show you how.
How A Kidney Transplant Works
A kidney transplant is a major surgery to replace a diseased kidney with a healthy kidney from another person. The surgeon removes your diseased kidney and attaches the new kidney to the lower abdomen. The new kidney will begin working right away. There are two types of kidney transplants:
- Deceased donor transplant (also called cadaveric transplant). The kidney comes from a deceased donor.
- Living donor transplant. The kidney comes from a living donor, who may be a family member or friend.
In either case, the donor’s kidney must be a compatible match for your blood and tissue type. A successful transplant depends on many factors. These include how well the donor kidney functions and how well it is matched to you. A kidney transplant is usually done when:
- You have end-stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD is the last stage of chronic kidney disease. This means your kidneys can no longer clean your blood or remove extra fluid from your body.
- You’re on dialysis. Dialysis is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys. It removes waste and extra fluids from your blood, but it doesn’t treat the cause of your kidney failure.
- Your kidney disease is causing severe health problems. These may include heart disease, anemia (low red blood cell count), or bone disease.
- You have a living donor who is willing and able to donate a kidney.
If you’re considering a kidney transplant, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits. A successful transplant can extend your life and improve your quality of life. But there are also potential complications, such as rejection of the donor’s kidney.
Risk Factors and Predisposition
Understanding your predisposition or risks for kidney problems is crucial for early detection and prevention. Several factors can increase your risk of developing kidney disease, including:
Medical conditions: Health issues that can increase your risk include diabetes, autoimmune disorders, polycystic kidney disease, high blood pressure, and recurrent urinary tract infections.
Lifestyle factors: Smoking, obesity, a diet high in salt and protein, and a lack of exercise can all increase your risk of kidney problems.
Medications: Certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and certain antibiotics, can increase your risk of kidney problems if taken long-term or in high doses.
Age: The risk of kidney problems increases with age. As you age, your kidneys become less efficient at filtering waste products from your blood.
Family history: If you have a family history of kidney problems, you’re at an increased risk of developing them yourself.
Race or ethnicity: African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are at an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
If you have any of these risk factors, it’s important to talk to your doctor about getting screened for kidney problems. Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the progression of kidney disease and prevent complications.
If you have kidney problems, it’s important to work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that’s right for you. With the proper treatment, you can often improve your symptoms and even slow the progression of kidney disease. So, if you think you might have kidney problems, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.