Chronic kidney disease is a common condition, most patients who have it live long and happy lives.
What do kidneys do?
Our kidneys are bean shaped organs the size of a fist. They are located just underneath the ribcage at the back either side of the spine.
Kidneys carry out many important roles in our bodies. Primarily their job is to filter blood, removing waste, toxins and extra water as urine. They are also pivotal in maintaining our electrolyte balance so that the cells in our body work well. However, kidneys also make hormones which help control blood pressure, make red blood cells and help regulate bone metabolism to keep our skeletons strong.
What causes damage to our kidneys?
One of the most common reasons our kidney function falls is due to our natural aging process. In the same way as other organs fatigue as we get older so do our kidneys. Patients over the age of 60 may see a mild deterioration in their kidney function.
Other diseases/conditions may cause damage to our kidneys including:
- Heart disease
- Having high cholesterol
- Kidney infections
- Hereditary kidney disease
- Blockages to urine flow
- Having an abnormal kidney structure or size
- Medications including over the counter medications such as ibuprofen.
How is your kidney function monitored?
Kidney function is monitored by looking at blood and urine tests, specifically:
- Estimated Glomerular Filtration rate (eGFR) – this is a measure of how efficiently your kidneys are filtering blood.
- Serum Creatinine level – this is a wate product made by our muscles. The creatinine level reflects how well the kidneys remove this waste product from blood.
- Urine tests check how much protein or albumin is being excreted. In healthy individuals this level should be low if detectable at all.
The frequency of these tests will depend on how well your kidneys are functioning.
In advanced kidney disease other tests will be monitored according to an individual’s health needs.
What are the stages of Chronic kidney disease?
|Stage||GFR (mL/min)||What It Means|
|Stage 1||90 and higher||Your kidneys are working well|
|Stage 2||60 to 89||Your kidneys are working well but slowing down a little|
|Stage 3a||45 to 59||Your kidneys are not working as well as they should, but we still be working well enough to support your body with the necessary functions. This is the most common stage. Lots of patients may have this level of disease but will be unaware and continue to live healthy lives.|
|Stage 3b||30 to 44||Your kidneys show moderate damage and do not work as well as they should. With the right treatment, many people can stay in this stage and never advance to stage 4.|
|Stage 4||15 to 29||You have poor kidney function; your kidneys are damaged and close to not working. Patients in this category are sometimes supported by a Nephrologist (a kidney specialist)|
|Stage 5||Less than 15||Your kidneys are very close to failing or have stopped working. You may need kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant at this stage.|
What are the symptoms of Chronic kidney disease?
Many patients do not have any symptoms associated with their kidney disease however as it progresses patients may experience:
- Fatigue, low energy
- Changes in frequency to urinate.
- Foamy or bubbly pee
- Reduced appetite.
- Shortness of breath
- Puffy eyes
- Swelling of hands and feet
- Dry itchy skin
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating.
- Numbness or nerve pain
- Electrolyte disturbance
- Reduced bone density.
- Muscle cramps
- High blood pressure.
How is Chronic kidney disease treated?
There is no cure for kidney disease however patients can do plenty to help keep their kidneys healthy including:
- Taking medication if you have high blood pressure.
- Managing your blood sugars if you have diabetes.
- Eating a balanced diet
- Making sure you have an adequate water intake.
- Do not smoke.
- Exercise, ideally 30mins five times a week
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Seeking appropriate medication advice and avoid overuse of over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen.
Depending on the cause and severity of your kidney disease, you may be prescribed one or more medications by your GP or specialist.
Want to know more about Chronic Kidney Disease?
- Kidney Care UK: Chronic kidney disease
- National Kidney Federation: What is kidney disease?
- Kidney Research UK: Chronic kidney disease