Kidney Diseases

Why Kidney health is very important and how to keep your Kidneys healthy?

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Indian Foreign Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj, both were suffering from the Kidney disease. Both have transplanted their Kidneys in the recent past. Ex Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh died of Kidney Diseases. Veteran actor Shashi Kapoor was suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and was on dialysis for several years.

The 2016 budget announcement of a National Dialysis Programme is an indication to the growing disease burden. Some estimates suggest that every year there are 2.2 lakh new patients of End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) in India.

The recently released State Level Disease Burden Study for India shows that Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) shows the fifth largest increase in prevalence (26.1%) from 1990 to 2016.

The other diseases that showed a sharper spike in that period are diabetes (64.3%), cerebrovascular disease (CVD) (53.9%), ischaemic heart disease (IHD) (53%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (29.2%).

Incidentally, diabetes and hypertension (that also leads to CVDs and IHDs) are known risk factors for kidney diseases, accounting, by some estimates,  for 40-60% of cases of Chronic kidney disease in India today.

What is Chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive loss in kidney function. Kidneys are responsible for removing excess fluid and waste from the body – both can be toxic for the body if they are not got rid of.

Damage to kidneys because of a range of factors including exposure to high blood pressure and high blood sugar can, over time reduce its ability to perform that function.

For some time that impaired function is compensated for but after a point, the kidneys essentially shut down. This is CKD.

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What are the symptoms of CKD?

A person can lose up to 90% of their kidney functions before experiencing any symptoms. Inability to remove excess fluid from the body leads to swelling of legs, face and in advanced cases, fluid accumulates in the lungs causing difficulty in breathing. Accumulation of toxins in the body leads to fatigue, nausea, hiccups, and loss of appetite.

Healthy kidneys secrete the hormone erythropoietin (or EPO), which stimulates red blood cells to form. But as kidney function declines, production of this hormone is impaired and anemia (low red blood cell count) can occur.

Kidneys are also pivotal in maintaining calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, so failing kidneys can lead to increased phosphate levels leading to severe itchiness and low calcium levels leading to fragile bones, also known as osteoporosis.

Chronic kidney disease can indirectly lead to the rise in blood pressure due to the accumulation of fluids in the body.

Who are at risk?

People with Diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol level, heart disease, stroke and those who are over 60 years of age are at increased risk.

People with a family history of kidney disease are also particularly vulnerable to it. Repeated use of painkillers, called NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and less commonly infections too have been implicated.

More rarely, kidneys may be damaged by someone’s own immune system called autoimmune disorders. Acute kidney injury, a form of completely reversible kidney damage also increases the chances of chronic kidney disease in the future.

The growth of multiple cysts in the kidneys, known as polycystic kidney disease, which is present since birth and other structural defects of urinary passage causing reverse pressure on the kidneys (reflux nephropathy) are common causes.

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What can be done?

The Cleveland clinics recommend seven steps to keep your Kidneys healthy.

  • Hydrate, but don’t overdo it. It’s always a good idea to drink enough water, drinking more than the typical four to six glasses a day probably won’t help your kidneys do their job any better.
  • Eat healthy foods. Your kidneys can tolerate a wide range of dietary habits,. Most kidney problems arise out of other medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. It is suggested to follow healthy, moderate eating habits to control weight and blood pressure. Preventing diabetes and high blood pressure will help keep kidneys in good condition.
  • Exercise regularly. If you’re healthy, getting your exercise is a good idea because, like healthy eating habits, a regular physical activity can stave off weight gain and high blood pressure. But do be mindful of how much exercise you do, especially if you’re not conditioned.
  • Use caution with supplements and herbal remedies. Excessive amounts of certain vitamin supplements and some herbal extracts may be harmful to your kidneys. Talk to your doctor about any vitamins and herbs you plan to take.
  • Quit smokingSmoking can damage blood vessels, which decreases the flow of blood in the kidneys. When the kidneys don’t have adequate blood flow, they can’t function at optimal levels. Smoking also increases the risk of high blood pressure as well as the risk of kidney cancer.
  • Don’t overdo it when taking over-the-counter medications. Common non-prescription pills like ibuprofen and naproxen (NSAID’s) can cause kidney damage if taken too regularly over a prolonged period. If you have healthy kidneys and use these medicines for occasional pain, they probably don’t pose a risk.
  • If you’re at risk, get regular kidney function screening. If you have either diabetes or high blood pressure, your physician should screen for kidney dysfunction as part of routine care for those conditions.

“Individuals with kidney disease who are able to obtain treatment early experience a higher quality of life and are able to maintain more of their day-to-day activities, including keeping their jobs.” Xavier Becerra

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