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You May be Suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease without Knowing – Here is Why

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) affects around 15% of the adult population in the United States. Out of these people, up to one in seven people do not know they suffer from the disease. Two out of five do not know that they suffer from serious CKD. Are you among them? How can you know if you suffer from CKD? What are your treatment options? Here are all the answers to your questions.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

This is a chronic condition in which the kidneys gradually lose their functionality. Kidneys are bean-shaped organs located at the lower abdomen. Their function is to remove waste from blood. This waste is excreted through urine. The waste removed from the body includes excessive water, byproducts of metabolism and other unwanted materials.

The removal of waste helps maintain the much needed balance in the body. Without proper working of the kidneys, the body balance is altered and one may develop acidosis or alkalosis which are life-threatening conditions. Toxins May also accumulate in the blood and cause damage to other organs.

If chronic kidney disease advances to end stage renal disease, renal failure occurs and at this stage the kidneys are not able to carry out their basic functions. One will need to undergo dialysis, blood purification aided by a machine.

CKD is a Silent Killer

Chronic Kidney Disease does not manifest in alarming and sudden-onset symptoms. It develops slowly and its symptoms resemble those of most other chronic illnesses. It is the reason why many people do not realize that they are suffering from the disease until when it reaches its critical stages.

Some of the symptoms of CKD are:

  • Swelling of limbs (oedema)
  • Anemia
  • Decreased urine output
  • Fatigue
  • Blood in urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • As you can see, most of these symptoms occur in other diseases. You may think you have those other conditions but CKD is the problem. You need to get checked soon even if you do not have any symptoms. The kidneys tend to keep pushing themselves and often the signs and symptoms are not apparent in the early stages.

    Early detection of kidney disease improves the chances of prognosis. You are more likely to recover if the disease is detected early.

    Diagnosis of CKD and What are the Stages?

    The most effective indicator of kidney functioning is the glomerular filtration rate. This is a measure of how much blood your kidney is able to filter per minute. A low GFR means that your kidneys are not functioning well. The lower the GFR the more advanced the kidney disease is.

    In stage 1 CKD, the GFR is normal but evidence of kidney disease is detected through other tests. In stage 2, the GFR is lower than 90 ml per minute and there is evidence of kidney disease while in stage 3 the GFR is less than 60 ml per minute and there may be evidence of kidney disease or not. In stage 4, the GFR is lower than 30 ml per minute while in stage 5, the GFR is less than 15 ml per minute. At stage 5, renal failure is confirmed to have occurred.

    In most people, renal disease does not go past stage 2. With early diagnosis, the effects of CKD can be reversed and your kidneys may go back to working normally.

    To calculate your GFR, your doctor will need to take a blood sample and measure creatinine levels. The actual figure will depend on your age, weight, height and race.

    Another test that is useful in assessing kidney damage is urine microalbumin. For this you will need to give a urine sample. The amount of microalbumin, a protein, will be measured. A high level indicates kidney disease. This is because the kidney is unable to filter blood properly, it is filtering proteins that would normally be left in the bloodstream.

    With simple tests, your doctor can determine if you have chronic kidney disease or not. He or she can also determine what stage of the disease you have and take proper corrective action.

    Why Worry About Chronic Kidney Disease?

    With the subtle symptoms that indicate early stages of CKD, this disease can easily go undetected for long. Without treatment, irreversible kidney damage will occur. At this stage, one needs dialysis or a transplant to survive. At worst, this condition can be fatal.

    With the Covid 19 pandemic affecting many people in the world, other disease conditions have taken a back seat. Preventive visits to the doctor have reduced and many people are suffering without knowing it.

    You should make routine doctor visits a norm for you and your family. Consult with your physician often and have annual checkups. This will help with early detection of CKD and appropriate treatment is given.

    Chronic kidney disease is usually a comorbidity that occurs in people with Diabetes or Hypertension. People with either or both of these conditions should be checked often to prevent advancement in CKD if it occurs. Other risk factors for this disease include heart disease, family history of kidney disease, older age, obesity and smoking.

    Adults should have a primary doctor who carries out routine checkups. Make regular visits to the doctor and any health issues will be detected early.

    To prevent CKD, there are some lifestyle changes you need to make. You need to maintain a healthy weight, drink a lot of water, cut down on alcohol consumption and smoking, and eat healthy foods.

    What if I have Chronic Kidney Disease?

    The only way to determine if you suffer from CKD or not is through lab tests. These will determine the extent of the disease and your doctor will manage the condition with this information in mind.

    There is no cure for chronic kidney disease but the symptoms can be managed. You will be given medication to alleviate the signs and symptoms, slow the progression of the disease and reduce complications.

    Prevention is better than cure. Make the necessary lifestyle changes and prevent chronic kidney disease. See your doctor often and get the care you need. Even in this COVID-19 pandemic, do not forget your primary health and be on the watch out for these silent diseases like CKD.