Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive and often slow loss of kidney function over time. Unfortunately, it usually ends with a person developing permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant. As opposed to acute kidney failure which can happen over the course of a couple of days, and is often reversible, CKD is a permanent condition. CKD often goes unnoticed until kidney function dips beneath the 25% mark of normal function. As the disease progresses waste and fluid build up in the body. There are many causes of CKD and treatment is usually geared toward treating the underlying cause. The earlier stage (there are five stages) in which it's caught, the better the chance of slowing its progression.
There is no shortage of symptoms that could indicate CKD. These include nausea and vomiting, and a loss of appetite. The ironic pairing of both fatigue and troubles sleeping. Frequent or less frequent urination can also be a reliable indicator along with muscle twitches and cramps. Itching and swelling of the feet and ankles. It's not uncommon to experience shortness of breath or chest pain if there is a fluid build up in the lungs or heart respectively.
Doctors use the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) to measure kidney function. Stage 1, represents slight kidney damage with a normal filtration rate with a GFR number over 9. Stage 2 is a mild decrease in kidney function with the GFR being 60 to 89. A GFR range of 30 to 59 and a moderate reduction in kidney function means you're at Stage 3. When there is severe damage in kidney function, you will be at Stage 2 if your GFR is between 15 and 29. Stage 5 means your GFR has dipped below 15 and you'll need regular dialysis for the rest of your life without a new kidney.
No one is immune to chronic kidney disease, and anyone can get it. Though there are groups that have higher risks. Those with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and those over sixty are at a higher risk. There are also genetic factors involved, a family member with kidney disease will raise your chances of getting it yourself. African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asians are also more prone to developing CKD.
Diabetes is not curable, but those who work with their doctors to manage their blood sugar indeed reduce the chance of developing CKD. The same can be said for those with high blood pressure which can also be controlled with lifestyle changes. Like with many ailments living a healthier life through diet and management of alcohol, regular exercise, and regular doctor's visits also lower the chance of developing CKD. Many people think that smoking affects the heart and lungs without giving thought to the kidneys which also hate tobacco.
The answer to this is a doctor's office visit and a series of tests. While there are many tests available to the doctor, the three primary tests used to determine the presence and severity of CDK include an eGFR test, a urine test and the same blood pressure test you likely have every time you visit your doctor.
There are many blood tests that your doctor will have at their disposal to diagnose CKD including a creatinine test and blood cell counts among a host of others. Your doctor may also use an ultrasound to have an immediate look at the kidneys. If other tests are unable to paint a sufficient picture for your doctor a biopsy may be ordered which is generally an outpatient procedure.
This is nothing short of a tremendously long list as the kidneys affect so many other areas of the body. Anemia, heart disease, central nervous system damage, pericarditis, pregnancy complications, fluid retention, a rise in potassium levels which impair the heart, decreased sex drive and many others are possible complications.
Decreasing your protein intake could make significant strides in slowing the development of CKD. Salt restriction is vital as high blood pressure is a critical factor in keeping CKD progression at bay. Potassium restriction is essential in advanced kidney disease because the kidneys will simply not be able to remove it from your body. Additionally, look to lower phosphorus levels. All of these can be worked out with the help of a skilled dietician.
There is a long list of over-the-counter drugs that should be used sparingly or not at all that only you can stop you from using: including aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Laxatives and antacids often contain magnesium and aluminum which do not help slow CKD. Additionally, discuss what supplements you are using after being diagnosed with CKD.
While chronic kidney disease is an irreversible condition, it is not a life sentence. Yes, Stage 5 ends in dialysis, transplant or death, it doesn't need to get to Stage 5. Regular physicals with your doctor should catch it early, and there are myriad ways to slow it if detected at an early stage. Through diet, exercise, medications and additional suggestions from your doctor, you can live a full life following a diagnosis of CDK.
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