The kidneys play a key role in maintaining our overall health. Kidney disease is a common and serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide.
Understanding kidney disease
Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, refers to the gradual loss of kidney function over time. The kidneys have essential functions, such as filtering waste products and excess fluids from the blood. They regulate blood pressure, produce hormones and balance electrolyte levels. When the kidneys are damaged, they cannot do these functions as well, leading to a build up of toxins and waste in the body.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney disease. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, making it hard for them to filter waste and fluids.
- High Blood Pressure: Uncontrolled or poorly managed high blood pressure can also damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, affecting their ability to filter waste and fluids effectively.
- Chronic Glomerulonephritis: This is a group of kidney diseases characterised by inflammation and damage to the tiny filters in the kidneys.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD): PKD is a genetic disorder that causes cysts to develop in the kidneys, which leads to kidney damage.
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Recurrent or untreated UTIs can spread to the kidneys and cause infections that may cause kidney damage.
Following on from this, early on the symptoms of kidney disease may not be that noticeable. However, as the condition progresses, people may have the following signs and symptoms:
– Fatigue and weakness.
– Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet or on the face.
– Decreased urine output or changes in patterns.
– Blood in urine or foamy urine.
– Persistent itching.
– Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss.
– Nausea and vomiting.
– Difficulty concentrating and mental fog.
-Muscle cramps and twitches.
Treatment does depend on the cause and the stage the patient is at. Following on from this, here are some common approaches:
– Medications: Medications may manage conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
– Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help slow progression of the disease. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, limiting salt intake, giving up smoking, exercising regularly and managing stress.
– Dialysis: Dialysis may be needed in the later stages of this disease. This is when the kidneys cannot function properly. Dialysis removes waste products and excess fluid from the blood using a machine.
– Kidney Transplant: In cases of end-stage kidney disease, a kidney transplant may be the best option. This involves surgically replacing a damaged kidney with a healthy one from a donor.
– Supportive Care: Managing symptoms and complications, such as anaemia, bone disease and cardiovascular issues, is essential in providing care for people with kidney disease.
Kidney disease is a serious condition that can significantly impact a person’s health and quality of life. Understanding its causes, recognising the symptoms and seeking medical advice are crucial steps. By addressing underlying causes, making lifestyle changes and following the recommended treatment options, people can slow the progression of the disease and improve their overall wellbeing. If you suspect kidney disease or experience some of the symptoms above, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional, such as a vascular surgeon.