5 Things You Didn't Know About Kidney Disease

May 10, 2017

Most people are born with two kidneys. Even in the rare instance of being born with one, it grows to the size of two kidneys and functions just as well as two. You can live a perfectly normal life with one working kidney. In fact, you can live a normal life if only 50 percent of one kidney is working. The kidney is an incredible organ that filters toxins from your blood, controls levels of sodium and other electrolytes, regulates blood pressure, and controls fluid levels in your body. Here are five things you probably did not know about kidney disease.

1. You Can Be Unaware of Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) progresses over a number of years. High blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, genetics, and other factors are associated causes of CKD. It is possible for you to lose up to 90% of your kidney function before you develop symptoms serious enough to prompt you to seek medical attention. This is why it is critically important to have a glomerular filtration rate blood test and a urinalysis done annually. About once every three months will likely be recommended by your doctor if you have hypertension, diabetes, or other risk factors for developing CKD.

2. A Transplant Is Not a Cure

It may go without saying, but receiving a donated kidney is not a cure for CKD. Even in cases of receiving a transplant due to acute kidney failure caused by injuries, exposure to toxins, infections, or other reasons, it is absolutely necessary to carefully follow recommended medical protocols for keeping a transplanted kidney working for as long as possible. Transplants greatly expand your freedom to eat and drink what and how much you want, and they take away the need to have dialysis performed. However, a transplant requires you to take anti-rejection medications daily and to be closely monitored for any signs of rejection. The good news is that transplanted kidneys today last an average of 10 to 16 years.

3. Infections Can Cause Kidney Failure

You have probably heard about strep infections from strep throat to strep skin infections. Streptococcal A infections may lead to post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN). It is an inflammation of the glomeruli in your kidneys that filters your blood rather than an actual infection of your kidneys. Instead, it results due to how your body works to fight off the infection. If it occurs, it is usually days to weeks after a strep infection. It occurs more often in children, but it has more of a tendency to cause long-term kidney damage in adults. This is why it is a good idea to involve your doctor anytime you have an infection.

4. Transplants Save Money

According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 468,000 people are receiving dialysis due to end-stage renal disease. It costs approximately $70,000 per year for each patient receiving dialysis. Comparing the costs of maintaining dialysis versus the costs of getting a transplanted kidney, it costs about half as much for transplant patients than it does to stay on dialysis. Going beyond the cost savings, transplant patients live an average of 15 years longer than if they continued on dialysis. The incalculable savings of being free to not have to spend several hours at a dialysis center three times per week also add to the incredible benefit of receiving a donor kidney.

5. Chronic Kidney Disease Is Not Reversible

An acute problem with your kidneys comes on suddenly and may be able to be medically resolved with treatment. For example, acute renal failure caused by loss of blood flow due to a heart attack or kidney damage caused by contrast dyes used in some MRIs and CT scans may resolve to return normal kidney function. On the other hand, chronic kidney disease is progressive and not able to be reversed. The goal in chronic kidney disease is to preserve the remaining function of your kidneys for as long as possible, which may be many years. If you are being treated for any loss of kidney function, it is important that you diligently adhere to your recommended treatment plan. This can delay progression to stage 5 kidney disease, which requires ongoing dialysis or a kidney transplant.

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of kidney disease, make sure you are monitored closely by your doctor for any signs of kidney disease. Simple routine blood testing along with urine protein testing can catch problems much earlier than if you wait for noticeable symptoms of kidney disease. If you need dialysis treatment, Satellite Health is here for you!

Categories: Kidneys