Overview of chronic kidney disease
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a form of kidney disease in which your kidney loses its function gradually. That is, your kidney gradually declines in function. According to the Kidney Foundation, at least 26 million American adults are affected by chronic kidney disease. On the other hand, many adults may be in the early stage of chronic kidney disease without knowing. Chronic kidney disease differs from acute kidney failure. Chronic kidney disease is a progressive condition with very fatal consequences.
If your kidneys aren’t working at optimal levels, fluids and waste will accumulate in your body. This, will in turn lead to other complications. There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, but an early diagnosis can help slow down the damage to this vital organ.
Symptoms of chronic kidney disease
Early diagnosis of CKD is very important before extensive damage to the tissues has occurred. The bad news, however, is that CKD has very few symptoms in its early stages.
Symptoms become more apparent once the condition progresses. These symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Sleeping disorders
- Swelling of the feet or ankle
- Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Itching of the skin
- Muscle cramps or twitching
- Unintentional weight loss and decreased appetite
The thing is that most of these symptoms are also related to other conditions – and so, many people tend to overlook them. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor if you notice any unusual symptoms, especially if you have been exposed to risk factors for kidney disease.
As the condition progresses, you may experience other symptoms like dyspnea (shortness of breath), and chest pain. There will also be frequent urination. See your doctor as fast as you can if you notice any blood in your urine, or if you experience pains while voiding.
Causes of chronic kidney disease
CKD doesn’t have a sudden onset. It takes time to develop – usually over months, and in some cases, years. In most cases, CKD may be associated with some underlying health conditions that may affect kidney health.
According to the Kidney Foundation, at least two-thirds of all CKD cases are linked to diabetes or hypertension.
Hypertension is a major cardiovascular condition that is common among middle-aged adults. Your risk of having this condition is high if you:
- Do not have a good physical shape
- Are getting old
- Have a history of hypertension in your family
Hypertension, if not controlled, can lead to CKD. If you are hypertensive, then ensure that you manage it as best as you can.
Diabetes has damaging effects on the kidneys. This is why it is classified as a cause of chronic kidney disease.
Other causes of chronic kidney disease include:
- Heart disease
- Multiple kidney infections
- High cholesterol
- Vesicoureteral reflux (when urine gets backed up into the kidneys)
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Drug abuse
- Alcohol use
- Abuse of OTC pain relievers, like acetaminophen overdose or overdose of ibuprofen
Complications of chronic kidney disease
The following are some of the complications of chronic kidney disease:
- coronary artery disease
- fluid retention
- electrolyte imbalances (mainly potassium and sodium)
Chronic kidney disease can also cause end-stage renal failure. End-stage kidney failure is fatal without dialysis or a transplant.
When should you see a doctor?
CKD can cause serious damage to your organ, so you must see a doctor the moment you notice some unusual symptoms. If you have hypertension, diabetes, or other chronic conditions that can trigger CKD, then regular monitoring of your vitals is of utmost importance as a preventive measure.
Is it possible to prevent kidney disease?
The key to preventing kidney disease is by reducing the risk factors. You can reduce the risk factors by engaging in physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a low-fat diet. In the case of uncontrollable risk factors like type 1 diabetes or a family history of the condition, you can prevent CKD by consulting your doctor regularly for monitoring.
You can also reduce your salt intake. It can make a great difference. Do not add salt to your food after cooking. Take note of the sodium content on your food labels. You can also reduce your risk by abstaining from alcohol and quitting smoking.