Spotlight on Kidney Health

Spotlight on Kidney Health

Dr. Ernest Levister

March is Kidney Awareness Month. Kidney disease affects more than 200,000 in the United States each year. 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. 

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, you may have few signs or symptoms. Chronic kidney disease may not become apparent until your kidney function is significantly impaired. 

Treatment for chronic kidney disease focuses on slowing the progression of the kidney damage, usually by controlling the underlying cause. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage kidney failure, which is fatal without artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant. 

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, changes in how much you urinate, shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs and high blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control 

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. 

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.

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