Talk Tuesday

Kidney disease is much more common than you think. 

The Centers for Disease Control now estimate 1 in 7 adults or 30 million adults in the United States have kidney disease.  1 in 3 individuals with diabetes will develop kidney disease.  These are jarring numbers. 

The other astonishing part is that more than 90% of those with kidney disease are not aware of their kidney problems since most times it is without symptoms.  Recognizing kidney disease early helps in slowing down the progression. 

What is kidney disease?

The kidneys are like the “washing machines” for the body. 

The functions include:

  • Clearing medications
  • Removing waste products
  • Getting rid of extra salt and water
  • Balancing the electrolytes like potassium and phosphorus
  • Make  hormones to help red blood cells
  • Keep you from being anemic
  • Make an active Vitamin D that keeps your bones strong

What are the causes of kidney disease?

The most common cause of kidney disease in the world is diabetes. 

The second leading cause is high blood pressure.

Other causes include damage from medications, recurrent infections, blockage of the urine flow, and some inherited diseases like polycystic kidney disease.

Are you at risk for kidney disease?

If you have diabetes, if you have high blood pressure, if you have family members with kidney disease, if you are over the age of 60, if you are African American, or have a history of acute kidney injury, you are at risk for having kidney disease.

How do you diagnose kidney disease?

There are two simple tests.

 A blood test for checking creatinine.  This is a marker of how well the kidneys are filtering. Creatinine levels are affected our age, gender, or nutritional status so you cannot compare one person’s creatinine to another.  The creatinine level is put into a formula to calculate a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) that lets us estimate how well the kidney is filtering.

Normal is about 100mL/min.  That GFR level tells us what stage of kidney disease someone is at.   Based on the stage of kidney disease, your doctor can know how often to check labs and how often to see you in the clinic. 

We also check a urine test for albumin (protein).  The albumin in the urine is a marker if there is damage to kidney.

What can someone with kidney disease do to slow down the progression?

There are some general things that regardless of what the cause of kidney disease or what stage would help everyone.

  1. Don’t smoke
  2. Limit sodium intake to less than 2.5 grams/day
  3. Limit the amount of processed food
  4. Daily exercise – walking about 30 minutes /day
  5. Keep a healthy weight
  6. Keep the blood pressure under control
  7. If you have diabetes- keep the blood sugar under good control
  8. Cautious use or avoidance of medications like NSAIDs (over the counter pain medications)
  9. Be engaged with your health care team

Depending on the type of kidney disease and the associated complications, your doctors will recommend more specific treatments.