You have two kidneys, each of which is about the size of your fist. These bean-shaped organs are located near the middle of your back, below the rib cage. Your kidneys filter out all the extra waste and water out of the blood, converting it into the urine. Inside these kidneys are million tiny structures known as nephrons which do the job. Having a kidney or renal disease implies that your kidneys are damaged and cannot carry out the filtering function as it should. Most of these diseases are due to the impact on nephrons which makes the kidneys unable to remove waste from your body. Chronic kidney diseases affect nephrons slowly over several years. So, you need to know more about what causes such advanced kidney diseases and the primary treatment for the same.
What are renal diseases?
Kidneys are located at the bottom of your rib cage, on either side of the spine. They are essential for a healthy body because they are primarily responsible for filtering out toxic, waste products and excess water in the form of urine. They also regulate the levels of pH, salt and potassium in the body. They secrete hormones which regulate blood pressure and red blood cell count. So, any disease which affects the kidney could affect your entire body and lead to other health issues. Such renal diseases might get worse over time and turn your kidneys fully non-functional. That is when treatments like dialysis come into play, which cannot completely cure the disease, but can prolong your existence.
Types of renal diseases:
There are certain types of advanced kidney diseases:
Chronic kidney disease
The most common kind of kidney disease is chronic kidney disease. This is a long-term medical condition which does not get better with time. It is mostly due to high blood pressure or diabetes.
This is yet another common kidney problem. It occurs when minerals and other substances in the blood get crystallized and forms solid masses or stones in the kidneys.
Polycystic kidney disease
This is a genetic disorder which causes multiple cysts or small sacs of fluid to buildup in the kidneys. These could interfere with kidney functioning and ultimately lead to kidney failure.
This disease is an inflammation of the glomeruli which are tiny structures inside the kidneys that filter blood. This can be caused due to infections, certain drugs or congenital abnormalities.
Urinary tract infections
UTIs are the bacterial infections which take place in any part of the urinary system. Infections in the bladder and urethra, if not properly treated, could spread to the kidneys and result in kidney failure.
Symptoms of Renal Diseases
The following are the warning signs for Renal Disease:
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Not feeling hungry
- Swelling in your feet and ankles
- Too much or not enough urine
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble sleeping
In acute kidney failure (kidneys stop working suddenly), you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Belly (abdominal) pain
- Back pain
Causes of Renal Diseases
There are a variety of causes and risk factors for kidney diseases. Diabetes is known to be the leading cause of renal disease. Other reasons include:
- High blood pressure
- Family members having chronic kidney disease
- Being elderly
- Being of African, Hispanic, Asian or American-Indian descent
- Bacterial infections like urinary tract infections
- Genetic reasons
- Specific drugs or congenital abnormalities
Treatment for Renal Diseases
Treatment of kidney diseases is usually dependent on the underlying cause of the disease. So, your doctor will aid you in better management of your other health factors like blood pressure, blood sugar as well as cholesterol levels. The methods of treatment include:
- Medications: Blood pressure medicines like angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (lisinopril) and angiotensin receptor blockers (olmesartan) help to slow down the progression of kidney diseases. Cholesterol drugs like simvastatin help to reduce the cholesterol levels. Also, doctor may prescribe drugs to relieve and treat anemia.
- Lifestyle changes: Making healthy choices by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle to help prevent many of the underlying causes. You need to control diabetes, restrain the intake of cholesterol-rich and salty foods, increase intake of a heart-healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy items, cut back on alcohol consumption, quit smoking, lose weight and indulge in physical activities.
- Dialysis: Dialysis is an artificial method of carrying out the kidney’s function of blood filtering. It is one of the primary and sometimes the only way of treatment when the kidneys are close to failing. Patients of late-stage kidney disease need to go on dialysis permanently until a kidney transplant is possible. The two types of treatment are:
- Hemodialysis: In this type of dialysis, the blood is pumped out through a special machine which helps to filter out the waste products. This is carried out at homes, hospitals or dialysis centres. Most patients need to take several sessions per week, each session lasting up to five hours. The general side effects are low blood pressure, itching and muscle cramps.
- Peritoneal dialysis: In this type of dialysis, the peritoneum i.e. membrane lining the abdominal wall, takes the place of kidneys. A tube is implanted and then utilized to fill the abdomen with a fluid, dialysate. Waste products travel from peritoneum to dialysate and then the fluid is drained. This dialysis can be done several times a day or continuously at night while sleeping.
Prevention of Renal Diseases
Certain factors which increase the risk of kidney diseases like age, race, genetics, family history etc. are not possible to control. However, there are certain precautions that can be taken to keep your kidneys healthy and happy. This includes:
- Controlling diabetes
- Controlling blood pressure
- Reducing the intake of salt
- Quitting smoking
- Following the dosage instruction for over-the-counter medications
- Testing for kidney problems through regular health checks
Kidney diseases are severe health conditions that can’t be cured easily. You need to maintain a healthy kidney for the rest of your life by adopting healthy lifestyle choices and following the doctor’s instructions. Renal diseases get worse over time and can lead to life-threatening kidney failure. So, it is crucial to take care of your kidney, get regular dialysis sessions done and prevent its complete breakdown for the rest of your life.