The kidneys (two bean-shaped organs about the size of a fist) are located on either side of your spine, just above your waist and in the abdominal cavity. Your kidneys are extremely important for your overall health. They help to remove waste products, release hormones that regulate your blood pressure, regulate the production of red blood cells and help to produce an active form of Vitamin D, which is necessary for bone health. They also help to maintain an equal balance of water and a concentration of minerals, such as potassium, sodium and phosphorus in the blood.
Kidney function generally declines with age; however, there are certain factors that can put you at a higher risk of kidney disease. In many situations, people aren’t aware they have a problem until it becomes critical. Kidney disease means there is damage to your kidneys and they aren’t able to filter blood the way they should.
Causes of Kidney Disease
Anyone can develop kidney disease; however, some people are at a greater risk than others. The main risk factors for developing kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of kidney failure and/or cardiovascular heart disease. Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure and high blood pressure is the second leading cause. Autoimmune diseases, such as Lupus, birth defects and other problems, such as an obstruction of the flow of urine and the use of analgesics, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen may also cause kidney disease.
Stages of Kidney Disease
Glomeruler filtration rate (GFR) is a term used to determine how well your kidneys are filtering blood; the lower the rate, the less filtering (how well your kidneys are cleaning the blood) is being done. A normal GFR is 90% or better. There are 5 stages of kidney disease, including:
- Stage 1, which includes signs of mild kidney disease but with a normal of better GFR greater than 90%.
- Stage 2 is mild kidney disease with a reduced GFR of 60-89
- Stage 3 is moderate chronic renal insufficiency with a GFR of 30-59
- Stage 4 is severe chronic renal insufficiency with a GFR of 15-29
- Stage 5 is end-stage renal failure with a GFR of less than 15. At this stage the person will require dialysis or a transplant.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
In many cases, early problems of kidney disease don’t exhibit many noticeable symptoms, so it can be difficult to diagnose the disease. However, being aware of possible symptoms may help to reduce the chances of suffering from advanced kidney disease. Symptoms of kidney disease to be aware of include:
- Change in urinary function (amount and frequency of urine you pass)
- Getting up more often at night to urinate
- Urge to urinate more often, but unable to do so
- Urine is darker than usual
- Foamy, bubbly or bloody urine
- Swelling in your body
- Severe weakness and fatigue
- Unexplained back pain
- Itching and skin breakouts
- Ammonia breath
It is extremely important to protect your kidneys by preventing or managing health conditions that may cause kidney damage, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Talk with your doctor about your kidney health; remember getting tested may be the only way to know how healthy your kidneys are.