Why are kidneys so important?

Kidneys are very important organs that perform the following vital functions:

  • Remove waste products from the body
  • Remove drugs from the body
  • Balance the body’s fluids
  • Release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • Produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • Control the production of red blood cells

What are the causes of kidney failure?

There are basically two types of kidney failure.

Acute renal failure: This occurs suddenly and is caused by infections, snake bite, drugs etc. More often than not, the renal function recovers almost completely in this case.

Chronic kidney disease (CRF): Chronic kidney disease includes conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their ability to keep you healthy. The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases. Other conditions that can lead to this include glomerular diseases, inherited diseases like polycystic kidney disease, repeated urinary infections, kidney stones etc

What are the warning signs of kidney disease?

Kidney disease usually affects both kidneys. If the kidneys’ ability to filter the blood is seriously damaged by disease, wastes and excess fluid may build up in the body. Although many forms of kidney diseases do not produce symptoms until late in the course of the disease, there are six warning signs of kidney disease:

  • High blood pressure
  • Blood and/or protein in the urine
  • Creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) blood test outside the normal range. BUN and creatinine are wastes that build up in your blood when your kidney function is reduced
  • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) less than 60. GFR is a measure of kidney function
  • More frequent urination, particularly at night; difficult or painful urination
  • Puffiness around eyes, swelling of hands and feet

Other symptoms may include:

  • Feel more tired and have less energy
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Have a poor appetite
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Have muscle cramping at night
  • Have dry, itchy skin

Who are all at risk?

You may have an increased risk for kidney disease if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a family history of chronic kidney disease
  • Are older
  • Have been taking drugs like painkillers for quite some time
  • Have been having recurrent urinary calculi.
  • Belong to a population group that has a high rate of diabetes or high blood pressure especially Indians

Can kidney disease be successfully treated?

Many kidney diseases can be treated successfully. Careful control of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure can help prevent kidney disease or keep it from getting worse. Kidney stones and urinary tract infections can usually be treated successfully. A renal biopsy may be required in many cases to find out the cause of kidney failure. Unfortunately, the exact causes of some kidney diseases are still unknown and specific treatments are not yet available for them. Sometimes, chronic kidney disease may progress to kidney failure, requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. Treating high blood pressure with special medications called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors often helps to slow the progression of chronic kidney disease. A great deal of research is being done to find more effective treatment for all conditions that can cause chronic kidney disease.

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