Talkeetna: (907) 733-2273 ~ Willow: (907) 495-4100 ~ Wasilla: (907) 376-2273

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What Is Chronic Kidney Disease

Diagram of kidney with various parts labeled

Chronic kidney disease, or CKD, affects 37 million Americans, with millions more at high risk. To understand this condition, let us first learn what the kidneys do for our bodies.

These bean-shaped organs are 4-5 inches long, and sit below the ribs, behind the belly, and rest on each side of the spine.

Without the kidneys, the heart and other organs in the body will malfunction. Our kidneys filter blood from bodily wastes and also produce hormones like vitamin D and erythropoietin which regulate red blood cell production in the body.

Damage that prevents their kidneys from functioning adequately increases waste buildup in the body, making you sick. If not detected early, situations become worse, leading to kidney failure. Once the kidneys fail, dialysis treatments are required for the rest of your life or a transplant.

What causes CKD?

Two chronic conditions responsible for the majority of chronic kidney disease cases are diabetes and high blood pressure.  When diabetes and high blood pressure are not managed well over time, it can lead to health problems like heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney disease.

Other conditions that can affect the kidneys:

  • Glomerulonephritis or inflammation of the kidney’s filtration units. It is also the third most common kidney disease.
  • Lupus and other diseases that target the body’s immune system
  • Kidney stones, tumors, an enlarged prostate gland in men
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections

Does salt cause CKD?

No. Our bodies need salt to function smoothly; about 2300mg per day. However, if your diet is high in salt, your likelihood of developing CKD is higher. Too much salt in your blood raises blood pressure because it draws more water into the bloodstream.
 

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How can I tell if I have CKD?

Chronic kidney disease is a progressive and gradual loss of kidney function that happens over a long period. It also does not discriminate against anyone at any age and signs and symptoms do not show up until it is in the advanced stage. However, people who have diabetes, high blood pressure, have a history of kidney failure in the family, and older individuals have a higher chance of developing the disease.
Learn more about the stages of CKD.

Some symptoms you may notice are:

  • feeling lethargic
  • poor concentration
  • low appetite
  • insomnia
  • night muscle cramps
  • swollen feet and ankles
  • puffy eyes in the morning
  • dry, itchy skin
  • frequent urination especially at night

Since symptoms do not show up in later stages, you must get screened for CKD, especially if you have a family history of kidney failure.

Screening options:

There are two ways to check for CKD:

  • urine albumin test
  • glomerular filtration rate test or GFR.

Three positive urine albumin tests over 90 days may indicate kidney damage and your medical provider will likely recommend a GFR test to check the level of kidney function and the stage of kidney disease. The earlier you catch CKD, the better the chances of slowing its progression or stopping further damage.

How can I prevent CKD?

Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent CKD. Diabetes and high blood pressure are vital factors for chronic kidney disease; therefore, avoiding a high sugar diet and trans fats from processed foods can help tremendously in controlling or preventing this condition.

Healthy tips to fight CKD:

  • avoid or quit smoking
  • have a low-salt diet
  • exercise regularly
  • limit alcohol intake

Kidney damage is usually permanent; however, if caught early, there are ways to keep it from getting worse and to keep your kidneys functioning.

Image by OpenStax College is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unreported

 

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