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How to diagnose and treat kidney disease

Posted at 7:41 AM, Apr 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-15 08:48:19-04

Kidney disease is a major health burden in the United States, affecting more than 30 million people.
However, the disease doesn’t get as much attention as other conditions like obesity and heart disease.

The big reason it’s overlooked is because many people with kidney disease don’t even realize it.

The term “chronic kidney disease” means lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time.

“Chronic kidney disease or chronic kidney failure means the kidneys are not doing the functions they are supposed to do. We have two kidneys, and the kidneys are responsible for filtering our body, removing the toxin and waste products, and removing extra fluids from our body,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Amber Kaldas.

This disease usually does not have any symptoms until your kidneys are badly damaged.

“The symptoms of kidney failure at late stages will be fatigue, lack of energy, loss of appetite, sometimes nausea and vomiting, sleep disorders, swelling of feet and ankles. Once again those symptoms happen in late stages of kidney disease,” said Kaldas.

Damage to your kidneys is usually permanent. Although the damage cannot be fixed, you can take steps to keep your kidneys as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

“The population at risk of having chronic kidney failure are patients with diabetes, hypertension, family history of chronic kidney disease, patients who have autoimmune diseases like lupus or other inherited diseases, or history of chronic use of anti inflammatory medications,” said Kaldas.

Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease or help keep them under control.

“It will help you maintain your kidney functions, and it will provide you the tools that help you prevent further damage to your kidneys, and this way you can save the kidneys or prolong the need for dialysis or any form of treatment,” said Kaldas.

Kidney failure is one of the major health burdens in South Texas, and it is a life-threatening condition. It increases the risk of having a heart attack and cerebrovascular stroke.

Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, describes the gradual loss of kidney function. Your kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine. When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes can build up in your body.


Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease develop over time if kidney damage progresses slowly. Signs and symptoms of kidney disease may include:
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Loss of appetite
• Fatigue and weakness
• Sleep problems
• Changes in how much you urinate
• Decreased mental sharpness
• Muscle twitches and cramps
• Swelling of feet and ankles
• Persistent itching
• Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
• Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
• High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control

Signs and symptoms of kidney disease are often nonspecific, meaning they can also be caused by other illnesses. Because your kidneys are highly adaptable and able to compensate for lost function, signs and symptoms may not appear until irreversible damage has occurred.

When to see a doctor:

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of kidney disease.

If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of kidney disease, your doctor is likely to monitor your blood pressure and kidney function with urine and blood tests during regular office visits. Ask your doctor whether these tests are necessary for you.


Chronic kidney disease occurs when a disease or condition impairs kidney function, causing kidney damage to worsen over several months or years.

Diseases and conditions that cause chronic kidney disease include:
• Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
• High blood pressure
• Glomerulonephritis (gloe-mer-u-low-nuh-FRY-tis), an inflammation of the kidney’s filtering units (glomeruli)
• Interstitial nephritis (in-tur-STISH-ul nuh-FRY-tis), an inflammation of the kidney’s tubules and surrounding structures
• Polycystic kidney disease
• Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract, from conditions such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones and some cancers
• Vesicoureteral (ves-ih-koe-yoo-REE-tur-ul) reflux, a condition that causes urine to back up into your kidneys

• Recurrent kidney infection, also called pyelonephritis (pie-uh-low-nuh-FRY-tis)

Risk factors:

Factors that may increase your risk of chronic kidney disease include:

• Diabetes
• High blood pressure
• Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
• Smoking
• Obesity
• Being African-American, Native American or Asian-American
• Family history of kidney disease
• Abnormal kidney structure

• Older age


Chronic kidney disease can affect almost every part of your body. Potential complications may include:

• Fluid retention, which could lead to swelling in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
• A sudden rise in potassium levels in your blood (hyperkalemia), which could impair your heart’s ability to function and may be life-threatening
• Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
• Weak bones and an increased risk of bone fractures
• Anemia
• Decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction or reduced fertility
• Damage to your central nervous system, which can cause difficulty concentrating, personality changes or seizures
• Decreased immune response, which makes you more vulnerable to infection
• Pericarditis, an inflammation of the saclike membrane that envelops your heart (pericardium)
• Pregnancy complications that carry risks for the mother and the developing fetus

• Irreversible damage to your kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), eventually requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival


To reduce your risk of developing kidney disease:

• Follow instructions on over-the-counter medications. When using nonprescription pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), follow the instructions on the package. Taking too many pain relievers could lead to kidney damage and generally should be avoided if you have kidney disease. Ask your doctor whether these drugs are safe for you.
• Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re at a healthy weight, work to maintain it by being physically active most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, talk with your doctor about strategies for healthy weight loss. Often this involves increasing daily physical activity and reducing calories.
• Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking can damage your kidneys and make existing kidney damage worse. If you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about strategies for quitting smoking. Support groups, counseling and medications can all help you to stop.
• Manage your medical conditions with your doctor’s help. If you have diseases or conditions that increase your risk of kidney disease, work with your doctor to control them. Ask your doctor about tests to look for signs of kidney damage