Kidney Disease

Table of Contents

Overview

The kidneys do extremely important work in the human body filtering blood and making urine.

When the kidneys are damaged, it is known as kidney disease. Kidney disease can develop over time and other health conditions can contribute to the illness.

Left untreated, kidney disease may progress to end-stage kidney failure which can be fatal.

Types

There are two main types of kidney disease: chronic kidney disease (CKD) and acute kidney injury.

If kidney disease lasts longer than three months it is considered chronic. If the patient recovers in less than three months they will be diagnosed with acute kidney injury.

There are five stages of chronic kidney disease: stage one is a mild illness, and stage five is kidney failure.

Causes

Many conditions can contribute to the development of kidney disease. Diabetes and high blood pressure are two prevalent conditions that can weaken the kidneys making them more susceptible to chronic disease.

Below is a list of risk factors for kidney disease:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Heart failure
  • Infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Renal artery stenosis
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Medications that are toxic to the kidneys
  • Toxins
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease
  • Alport syndrome

Symptoms

Early on, chronic kidney disease may present no symptoms. Up to 90% of patients have the disease and are unaware of it until it is revealed during a standard checkup.

Although some patients are asymptomatic, others can experience early signs of kidney disease such as:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Foamy urine
  • Nighttime frequency
  • Lower back pain or flank pain
  • Decreased urination

After the disease progresses, symptoms may change. Symptoms of late-stage chronic kidney disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Leg swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchy skin

Treatments

Chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, but many treatments are used to control the disease and increase the quality of life.

Lifestyle Changes

There are diet and lifestyle changes that can help manage kidney disease. Some of the recommendations include:

Eating less sodium

High sodium intake contributes to high blood pressure, which can strain the kidneys. Current recommendations are to limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day.

Eat the right amount of protein

The kidneys are responsible for filtering excess protein from the bloodstream. In order not to strain the kidneys, patients should be careful not to overeat protein in one sitting.

Eat heart healthy

To reduce the likelihood of fat buildup around the heart, patients are encouraged to eat low-fat and to choose lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Limit alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can cause damage to major body organs. Alcohol intake should be limited so as not to strain or further damage the kidneys.

Prescriptions

To treat kidney disease, many practitioners will prescribe ACE Inhibitors or ARBs. These medications are more frequently used to treat high blood pressure, but they are sometimes prescribed to treat kidney disease as well. This would be an example of an off-label prescription.

Patients may also be prescribed a medication called dapagliflozin (Farxiga). This medication is an SGLT2 inhibitor, which is typically used to treat diabetes. Studies have shown dapagliflozin can also slow the progression of kidney disease.

If kidney disease progresses too far patients may also be treated with dialysis.

Medications

Below is a list of the types of medications that may be used to treat kidney disease:


Sources:

  1. Mayo Clinic. Chronic kidney disease. August 2022. Available at Mayoclinic.org.
  2. Web MD. What to Know About the Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease. August 2022. Available at webmd.com.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chronic Kidney Disease in the United States, 2021. August 2022. Available at cdc.org.
  4. National Institute for Health (NIH). Eating Right for Kidney Disease. August 2022. Available at nih.gov.
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