March Is National Kidney Month!

March celebrates more than basketball madness and windy, changeable weather—it’s National Kidney Month—and World Kidney Day is March 12, 2015. Medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, government officials and the public use the day and month to raise awareness and support for healthy kidneys and for encouraging preventative measures for dealing with chronic kidney disease and other kidney problems. Chronic kidney disease or CKD affects about one out of every 10 people, and failure to treat the condition could result in end stage renal disease or ESRD, which threatens life.

Kidneys are critical to your health and quality-of-life issues because these organs filter waste products, regulate blood pressure and the production of red blood cells and balance electrolyte levels. Kidney failure can generate tremendously debilitating symptoms or develop gradually without obvious symptoms. Most people who have kidney problems don’t realize their deficiencies until their diseases reach the later stages when treatment is more challenging.

Kidney Disorders Range from Painful to Deadly

Typical kidney disorders include kidney cancer, kidney failure, kidney stones and polycystic kidney disease, which threatens fertility and pregnancies in women. Kidney stones develop when stone-forming materials combine in the kidney or urinary tract. Excessive minerals and/or a decrease in urine volume and other medical conditions like gout and high blood pressure increase the chances of developing kidney stones.

Other kidney diseases can prove severely debilitating or fatal. Complete renal failure requires going on dialysis to clean the blood while waiting for a transplant. Early detection is critical for delaying the onset of symptoms. Disorders like high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease aggravate kidney problems, and kidney disorders make these managing these conditions more challenging.

Diagnosis and Medications

National Kidney Month is an excellent time to schedule an annual check-up to determine if you have kidney problems. Kidney failure is more likely if you’re black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Asian, Native American or 65 years of age or older. Blood tests screen for creatinine, which the kidneys normally filter. If you have high levels of creatinine in the blood, your kidneys aren’t working properly. Preventative and treatment measures for kidney diseases include:

  • Avoiding dehydration
  • Eating a balanced diet of protein, fluid and sodium
  • Treating diabetes and high blood pressure with medication
  • Getting regular screenings of kidney function
  • Giving up smoking
  • Taking medications and supplements for electrolyte imbalances
  • Using diuretics to relieve pressure caused by fluid buildup
  • Replacing iron for anemia
  • Relieving severe pain of kidney stones with pain medication
  • Stimulating production of red blood cells with erythropoietin
  • Taking vitamin D to strengthen bones and health

Kidney failure might not cause obvious symptoms, so promoting kidney awareness is important. National Kidney Month is designed to foster awareness and encourage screenings of your kidney function and taking your medications to delay the onset of kidney disease or renal failure.