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Kidney Disease Is Common: What You Need To Know About Early Detection

Posted by Chris Schmidt

Jan 20, 2015, 8:00:00 AM

Kidney_Disease_Is_CommonChronic kidney disease (CKD), also known as chronic renal disease, affects approximately 26 million adults in the U.S., according to the National Kidney Foundation. 

Millions more are at risk. It is a condition in which kidney function deteriorates gradually over a period of months or years. Since your kidneys are responsible for a number of vital, life-sustaining functions, that decline can cause a wide variety of health problems and may, over time, lead to kidney failure and death. However, with early diagnosis, disease progression can be prevented with treatment, slowing or stopping the steady deterioration in these vital organs before life-threatening damage is done.

About Chronic Kidney Disease

The National Kidney Foundation defines chronic kidney disease as having some type of kidney abnormality, such as protein in the urine, in combination with decreased kidney function for three months or longer. The most common cause of CKD is diabetes. Other causes include hypertension, inherited kidney diseases, congenital kidney defects, infections, kidney stones, drugs and toxins.

Kidneys are responsible for functions that include removing waste products and drugs from the body, balancing body fluids, releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure, controlling red blood cell production and producing an active form of vitamin D for bone health.

When kidneys begin to lose their ability to perform these functions, waste products will begin to accumulate in the blood and complications can begin to emerge, such as high blood pressure, anemia, loss of bone mass and density and nerve damage. Untreated kidney disease also increases risk of cardiovascular disease, and, eventually, kidney failure. Should kidney disease progress to that point, dialysis and transplants are the only treatment options.

What You Need To Know About Early Detection

Kidney disease is often a silent disorder, with few or no symptoms until significant damage has already occurred in the kidneys. Even when symptoms are present, they are often overlooked, since they resemble those of many other conditions. That said, symptoms may include fatigue, poor appetite, insomnia, poor concentration, puffiness in the face, feet or ankles, frequent urination and dry itchy skin.

If you are over 50, have diabetes or hypertension, have CKD in the family, or belong to an ethnic group that has a high risk of kidney disease, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians, you may be at increased risk for CKD. Given the frequent lack of warning signs and importance of early detection and treatment, if you do have risk factors, having your doctor run some simple screening tests each year at your annual check-up is wise.

Your doctor may use a urine test to screen for early indications of kidney problems, called an Albumin to Creatinine Ratio (ACR) test, which provides an estimate of the amount of protein in your urine. Another common means of evaluating kidney function is a blood test to measure creatinine levels in your bloodstream, a measurement that your doctor will use to calculate your glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which is an indication of how well kidneys are functioning.

These screening tests are quick and simple, requiring just a urine or blood sample from you, and that 5 minutes could spare you years of ill health, or even save your life. Kidney disease can often be halted or slowed with dietary changes and medications, but only if it is detected soon enough. So if you have risk factors, don't wait for symptoms – take that 5 extra minutes with your doctor once a year to make sure that your kidneys are healthy.

Kidney Disorders and Common Types of Kidney Disease Care

Topics: Kidney Disease Management