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Dr. Bridget Gibson: Kidney disease risks, symptoms and prevention

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Kidney diagram.JPG

A diagram of a human kidney.

Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of a closed fist, located on either side of the spine near the middle of the back.

Kidneys function as your body’s treatment plant, processing up to 200 quarts of blood each day and removing about one to two quarts of waste products in urine. Keeping your kidneys healthy is very important to overall health.

Facts about kidneys

—One in three American adults is at risk for kidney disease.

—Two simple tests can detect kidney disease – a urine test and a blood test.

—Your kidneys secrete hormones that regulate red blood cell production, calcium, phosphorus and bone metabolism.

Risks of kidney disease

It’s possible to lose kidney function so slowly that you don’t notice until it’s too late to reverse disease. That’s why it’s important to know if you are at risk.

—You may be at risk for kidney disease if you are over age 60 or if you are obese, have have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a first degree relative with kidney failure.

—Certain races have higher risk factors for kidney disease: African-American/Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native.

Symptoms of kidney disease

—It is important to note that most patients have no clinical symptoms. Most cases are found with checking blood work and urinalysis.

—At later stages of chronic kidney disease, patients can notice puffiness around the eyes or swelling of hands and feet can indicate protein in the urine or sodium retention.

—Muscle cramps can occur due to electrolyte imbalances caused by impaired kidney function.

Prevent kidney disease

You can protect your kidneys by not smoking, staying hydrated with water, losing weight if you’re overweight, limiting alcohol consumption, eating a healthy, low salt diet and exercising.

Avoid non steroidal anti-inflammatories over the counter (ibuprofen, naproxen). Please talk to your doctor before starting new medications, even over the counter ones.

Why manage kidney disease

Over time, kidney disease can get worse and lead to kidney failure:

—It can also cause heart and blood vessel disease.

—Having too much potassium compared to normal range is a serious problem for people with chronic kidney disease and is also linked to congestive heart failure.

While chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, the progression of the disease can be slowed and managed.

They should see their doctor regularly, control high blood pressure and diabetes, and take medications as prescribed. For more information about keeping your kidneys healthy, talk with your doctor.

Dr. Bridget Gibson is a family medicine physician for Brookwood Baptist Health.