10 Critical Thing You Likely Didn’t Know About Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is increasing at alarming rates in the United States and throughout the world. High blood pressure or diabetes commonly causes CKD. Obesity is clearly a contributor. We now know that it can also develop as a result of HIV infection or exposure to toxins or heavy metals. That makes increased awareness of this threat vitally important.

1. An estimated 37 million adults in the United States may have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Many are unaware that they do until it has reached a major health concern. Early detection substantially increases the treatment alternatives as well as the survival rate.

2. Early-stage kidney disease doesn’t usually cause symptoms, but your doctor may recommend testing if you are at a higher risk of developing kidney disease. CKD risk factors include:

  • Having diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Being overweight.
  • Family history of kidney failure

3. Later-stage CKD does cause symptoms. Testing may be required if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Urinating more or less often than usual.
  • Itching
  • Feeling tired
  • Swelling in your arms, legs, or feet
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

4. The Mayo Clinic explains CKD clearly. “Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, involves a gradual loss of kidney function. Your kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then removed in your urine. Advanced chronic kidney disease can cause dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes, and wastes to build up in your body.”

5. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage kidney failure. That result would be fatal without artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant. In most cases, some form of dialysis precedes a kidney transplant.

6. Traditional hemodialysis, the most common treatment presents its own set of challenges. That approach requires regular and lengthy visits to a treatment center where a patient spends a significant amount of time hooked to a dialysis machine.

7. Fortunately, hemodialysis is not the only treatment alternative in many cases for patients suffering from kidney disease. Less intrusive protocols have been found effective in many cases and are increasing in popularity.

8. Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a treatment for kidney failure that uses the lining of your abdomen, or belly, to filter the blood inside your body. That is potentially game-changing for the patient as they are now able to stay at home, go to work or even travel on an ongoing basis.

9. When you start PD treatment, the dialysis solution—water with salt and other additives—flows from a bag through the catheter into your belly. When the bag is empty, you disconnect it and place a cap on your catheter so you can move around and do your normal activities. While the dialysis solution is inside your belly, it absorbs wastes and extra fluid from your body. After a few hours, the solution and the waste are drained out of your belly into the empty bag. You can throw away the used solution in a toilet or tub.

10. As time passes, filtering slows. For this reason, you need to repeat the process of emptying the used solution and refilling your belly with fresh solution multiple times each day. This process is called an exchange. Exchanges can occur during the day, or at night with the aid of a machine that pumps the fluid in and out.

There clearly is great value in knowing more about the disease and the potential treatment alternatives that are now available.