Do you know exactly how important your kidneys are to your everyday well-being and what you can do to support good kidney health? Responsible for not only filtering your blood and removing the toxins that build up each day, your kidneys also help to regulate your body’s fluid levels. That’s why kidney disease is important to understand as the impairment of kidney function can significantly impact your health and in some cases, lifestyle. According to the United States Renal Data System (USRDS), 15% of Americans have some form of chronic kidney disease.
Recognizing Kidney Disease Symptoms
Kidney disease often begins “silently,” meaning with no obvious symptoms. In fact, you may not even realize that you are in the early stages of kidney disease without undergoing blood or urine testing from your doctor. As kidney disease progresses, more symptoms become apparent. The National Kidney Foundation says that while only 10% of people with chronic kidney disease are aware of the problem, symptoms may include:
- Difficulty sleeping, including getting to sleep and staying asleep
- Frequent or unrelenting skin itching
- Urinary frequency or having to urinate often, including waking during the night to urinate
- Hematuria, the medical term for blood in the urine
- Trouble concentrating
- Frequent fatigue that may include shortness of breath with light activity
- Urine that is red, pink, or purple, as well as urine that is especially bubbly or frothy
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Swelling or puffiness in your cheeks or around your eyes
- Reduced or no appetite
- Frequent muscle cramps not caused by exercise or physical activity
If you have one or more of these symptoms, you should notify your primary care physician. as they may consider performing tests to rule out kidney disease. If they do suspect you have kidney disease, they may conduct further diagnostics or refer you to a kidney specialist, called a nephrologist.
Advanced Kidney Disease Symptoms
The symptoms listed below are usually only present in advanced kidney disease such as the later stages of chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal disease, also called kidney failure. However, these signs can appear in people with milder forms of the disease.
-Frail bones, leading to an increased propensity for fractures
- Hyperkalemia or high blood potassium levels, potentially causing severe heart problems
- Cardiovascular disease
- Greater susceptibility to infections
- Congestive heart failure and pericarditis, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart
Risk Factors for Kidney Disease
Some of the risk factors are uncontrollable, but other risk factors can be reduced or eliminated by working together with your doctor and health team.
Kidney problems can affect any age, gender, and race, although women are more prone to the early stages of kidney disease than men. Also, in the United States, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans are the ethnic groups most likely to suffer from chronic kidney disease. While older people encounter kidney disease the most often, the problem can certainly also affect younger individuals.
The Mayo Clinic has delineated other kidney disease risk factors:
- Being diabetic
- Having high blood pressure, also known as hypertension
- Being a smoker
- Having cardiovascular disease
- Having a family medical history of kidney disease
- Congenital kidney defects such as having only a single kidney or abnormal kidney structure
Management of your risk factors is important in preventing kidney disease. Even if you already have kidney disease, risk factor reduction can help keep your condition from worsening.
Kidney disease is often preventable and controllable. Working together with your doctor to monitor your health, control your weight and blood pressure, and maintain a healthy lifestyle is crucial. A primary care physician is invaluable in helping to ensure that your kidneys - and the rest of your body - are in top shape.