Your kidneys are about the size of a computer mouse and sit in the middle of your back. They help your body regulate and maintain healthy levels of chemicals in your blood, blood pressure, bone health, blood cells, and hormones. When they don’t function as they should repeatedly or for prolonged periods of time, you may be experiencing Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD.
Causes of CKD
Chronic Kidney Disease can arise from other conditions or habits. Diabetes or high blood sugar can damage organs including the kidneys, while high blood pressure can wreak havoc on your blood vessels, lessening the efficacy of the kidney’s crucial filtering function. Extended or frequent use of pain relievers including over-the-counter “NSAIDs” like Advil, Aleve, Motrin can also weaken the kidneys.
Other causes include diseases that impact your immune system, inherited conditions, or any problems that interfere with urine flow.
Stages of CKD
CKD can be tricky to self-diagnose as you may not show symptoms until your kidneys are close to failing, and in most cases blood and urine tests are the only way to know if you have CKD. If you have a history of kidney problems your doctor may regularly conduct tests to ensure your kidneys remain as healthy as possible and to prevent kidney failure.
If diagnosed, your doctor will then determine what stage of CKD your body is in, as treatments vary according to each stage. The stages of kidney disease are generally referred to as mild, moderate, and severe.
Mild CKD is often indicated by the presence of protein in your urine. For mild cases you should be careful to:
- Manage your blood sugar and blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Practice other healthy habits including exercising, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and reducing salt and meat intake.
You should also avoid substances that can further damage your kidneys such as ibuprofen and other medications, and only use your primary hand/arm for taking blood and placing IVs.
In addition to the symptoms of mild CKD, as your condition worsens you may experience anemia (lack of iron in your blood), or bone disease. In addition to more frequent doctor visits you should consider consulting with a kidney specialist (nephrologist) and a dietician. You should carefully monitor the substances in your diet, specifically limiting potassium and phosphorus while increasing iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
Severe CKD and Kidney Failure
As kidneys further deteriorate, symptoms may include edema and swelling, changes in how much energy you have, trouble sleeping, and confusion and irritability. You will need to make careful choices about your health as you consider dialysis, a kidney transplant, or home care.
© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.