As a human being, we have two kidneys from our birth. Our kidneys lie in our lower back area. One is on the one side of the spine while another is on the other side. You have kidney disease or kidney failure when your kidneys stop their main function, which is filtering waste from your blood. You may experience fatigue, high blood pressure, leg/feet swelling when you have a kidney disease. If ignored and untreated, it can lead to death. According to the WHO, around 1.3 million people died of kidney diseases, and kidney diseases were one of the top ten causes of death across the globe in 2019. Here, in this post, you will know everything about kidney disease such as kidney disease symptoms, kidney disease causes, stages of kidney disease, and how to prevent kidney failure.
Table of content
- Kidney Disease Types
- Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
- Kidney Disease Symptoms
- Kidney Disease Causes
- Kidney Disease Diagnosis
- Kidney Disease Treatment
- How to Prevent Kidney Failure
Kidney Disease Types
There are five distinct types of kidney diseases or failure. Acute kidney disease occurs suddenly when the kidneys stop functioning properly. On the other hand, chronic kidney disease develops over time. The five types of kidney disease or failure are as follows:
- Acute prerenal kidney failure – this type of kidney failure results from insufficient blood flow to the kidneys, which affects their ability to filter toxins from the blood. Once the cause of the reduced blood flow is determined, it can usually be treated, and the kidney function can be restored.
- Acute intrinsic kidney failure – this type of kidney failure can be caused by direct trauma to the kidneys, such as an accident or physical injury, toxin overload, or a lack of oxygen (ischemia). Ischemia can result from conditions like severe bleeding, renal blood vessel obstruction, shock, or glomerulonephritis.
- Chronic prerenal kidney failure – this type of kidney failure occurs when there is prolonged insufficient blood flow to the kidneys, resulting in kidney shrinkage and loss of function over time.
- Chronic intrinsic kidney failure – this type of kidney failure is caused by long-term damage to the kidneys due to intrinsic kidney disease resulting from direct trauma to the kidneys, such as severe bleeding or a lack of oxygen.
- Chronic post-renal kidney failure – this type of kidney failure happens due to long-term urinary tract blockage, which leads to increased pressure in the kidneys, causing eventual damage.
Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
To assess the severity of a person’s CKD, doctors rely on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which measures how effectively the kidneys are filtering waste. A person’s GFR can vary depending on their age, sex, and body size. By measuring the levels of creatinine in a person’s blood, doctors can determine their GFR. Creatinine is a waste product of creatine, which is an acid that helps power muscle cells. Normally, the kidneys filter a consistent amount of creatinine from the blood, so changes in blood creatinine levels can indicate kidney dysfunction. Using a person’s GFR, doctors can stage CKD as follows:
- Stage 1 – In stage 1 CKD, a person’s kidney function is normal with a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of at least 90 milliliters per minute (ml/min) per 1.73 meters squared (m2), but there is evidence of kidney damage. This damage may manifest as protein in the urine or physical damage, among other signs.
- Stage 2 – For individuals in stage 2 of chronic kidney disease (CKD), their glomerular filtration rate (GFR) ranges from 60–89 ml/min per 1.73 m2, indicating that their kidneys are functioning relatively well. However, a GFR within this range may also signify the presence of additional signs of kidney damage, such as physical damage to the kidneys or the presence of protein in the urine. Those with stage 1 or 2 CKD can consult with their healthcare provider regarding medications that may aid in preserving their kidney function.
- Stage 3 – In stage 3 of chronic kidney disease (CKD), the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) ranges from 30–59 ml/min per 1.73 m2, indicating that there is some degree of kidney damage and reduced kidney function. This stage can be further classified into two subcategories: stage 3a with a GFR of 45–59 ml/min per 1.73 m2, and stage 3b with a GFR of 30–44 ml/min per 1.73 m2. Although most people with stage 3 CKD do not exhibit symptoms, some individuals may experience swelling in their hands and feet, back pain, more frequent urination, anemia, and high blood pressure.
- Stage 4 – When an individual reaches stage 4 CKD, their GFR is between 15-29 ml/min per 1.73 m2. This stage indicates that their kidneys have suffered moderate to severe damage. Stage 4 CKD is a critical phase that precedes kidney failure. Symptoms like back pain, frequent urination, and swollen hands and feet are common in people with stage 4 CKD. There is also a higher likelihood of complications such as anemia or bone disease.
- Stage 5 – When a person’s GFR is 15 ml/min per 1.73 m² or less, they are said to have stage 5 CKD. This indicates that their kidneys are either failing or on the verge of failing.
Kidney Disease Symptoms
Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, can be caused by various factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, infections, and inflammation. Some of the common symptoms of kidney disease are:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in urination frequency or amount, such as decreased urine output, blood in urine or foamy urine
- Swelling in the feet, ankles, hands, or face due to fluid retention
- Shortness of breath due to fluid buildup in the lungs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pressure or pain in the chest
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Muscle cramps or twitching
- Itchy skin or dry skin
- High blood pressure
Kidney Disease Causes
Kidney failure may arise from various conditions or causes, with high blood pressure and diabetes being the top two culprits, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Individuals who are at the highest risk typically exhibit one or more of the following factors:
- Loss of blood flow caused by heart disease, dehydration, heart attack, allergic reactions, severe burns, or liver failure/scarring
- Urine elimination problems caused by kidney stone, blood clots in the urinary tract, enlarged prostate, or damage to nerves controlling your bladder
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Alcohol and Drugs
- An inflammation of the blood vessels
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome
- Dyes used in some imaging tests
- Multiple myeloma
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
- Certain antibiotics
Kidney Disease Diagnosis
As you notice a few of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should consult a respective doctor. After interacting with you, the doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Urine tests – to measure the presence of albumin, which indicates kidney damage
- Kidney scans – to know the exact current shape and size of kidneys with the help of CT Scans or MRI
- Kidney biopsies – to examine for cell damage
- Chest X-ray – to detect pulmonary edema, which is the retention of fluid in the lungs
- GFR – to know kidneys’ function
Kidney Disease Treatment
The treatment of kidney disease depends on the specific type and stage of the disease, as well as other factors such as the patient’s age, overall health, and medical history. In general, the goals of treatment are to slow the progression of the disease, manage symptoms, and prevent complications. Here are some common treatments for kidney disease:
- Medications – Depending on the type of kidney disease, medications may be prescribed to control blood pressure, reduce proteinuria (excessive protein in the urine), or manage other symptoms such as anemia or bone disease.
- Diet and lifestyle changes – Patients with kidney disease may need to follow a specific diet that limits sodium, potassium, and phosphorus intake. They may also need to limit protein intake and avoid foods that are high in potassium or phosphorus. Regular exercise and quitting smoking can also be beneficial.
- Dialysis – Dialysis is a procedure that filters the blood when the kidneys are no longer able to function properly. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis, which involves filtering the blood through a machine, and peritoneal dialysis, which involves using the lining of the abdomen to filter the blood.
- Kidney transplant – In some cases, a kidney transplant may be necessary if the patient’s kidneys are no longer functioning properly. This involves receiving a healthy kidney from a donor.
How to Prevent Kidney Failure
Kidney failure is a serious health condition where your kidneys lose their ability to filter waste and excess fluids from your blood. It can lead to a build-up of toxins in the body, fluid overload, and other complications. Here are some ways to prevent kidney failure:
- Manage your blood sugar levels – Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure. High blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys. If you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels and take your medications as prescribed.
- Control your blood pressure – High blood pressure can also damage the kidneys over time. It is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly and take medications as prescribed by your doctor to keep it under control.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Obesity is a risk factor for kidney disease. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing kidney problems.
- Stay hydrated – Dehydration can cause kidney damage. It is important to drink enough water to keep your kidneys functioning properly. The amount of water you need depends on your activity level, climate, and overall health.
- Quit smoking – Smoking can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys and increase your risk of kidney disease. If you smoke, quitting smoking can help protect your kidneys and improve your overall health.
- Avoid excessive use of pain medications – Overuse of over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen can damage the kidneys. It is important to use these medications only as directed and to talk to your doctor if you need to use them for an extended period.
- Limit alcohol consumption – Drinking too much alcohol can damage the kidneys over time. It is important to drink in moderation or avoid alcohol altogether.
- Get regular checkups – Regular checkups with your doctor can help identify kidney problems early when they are easier to treat. Your doctor can monitor your kidney function with blood and urine tests.
- Manage other health conditions – Other health conditions like heart disease, liver disease, and autoimmune disorders can also increase your risk of kidney disease. Managing these conditions can help protect your kidneys.
Kidney disease is a serious medical condition that can lead to kidney failure if left untreated. The most common symptoms of kidney disease include changes in urination, fatigue, swelling in the legs and ankles, and high blood pressure. Causes of kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, and genetic factors. Treatment options include medications, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, dialysis or kidney transplant. Prevention measures include managing underlying health conditions, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and avoiding certain medications and toxins. Early detection and treatment can improve outcomes and prevent complications.