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Understanding Chronic Kidney Disease in Detail

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease (or chronic kidney failure) is a degenerative disease that causes the kidney to malfunction or to function at below normal levels. This causes the excess fluid and waste in the blood stream to rise to dangerous levels and result in a large variety of dangerous and often fatal complications.

The kidneys are responsible for filtering out the waste and excessive fluids from the blood stream which are excreted through the urine. In case the chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage the malfunctioning of the kidneys causes the fluids and waste in the blood stream to rise to dangerous levels.

The initial stages of chronic kidney disease may not show any noticeable symptoms and often goes unnoticed or may show minor and few signs. As the kidney’s functioning gets progressively impaired the signs and symptoms are seen to become more prominent and noticeable.

The main aim of the treatment of chronic kidney disease is to slow the progress of the kidney damage and then to control the underlying condition that might be causing it.

Prompt and immediate treatment is advised in case a person experiences the common signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease as prolonged ignorance can lead to end-stage kidney failure.

Chronic Kidney Disease

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease are seen developing gradually over time as the damage to the kidney spreads.

These are the commonly seen signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Changes in urination amount
  • Affected mental abilities
  • Muscle cramp/twitching
  • Hiccups
  • Feet/ankle swelling
  • Constant itching
  • Chest pain (due to fluid build-up around the heart’s lining)
  • Shortness of breath (due to fluid build-up in the lungs)
  • High blood pressure

What are the Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease arises as a result of another disorder or disease that affects the kidney’s functioning which causes the damage to the kidney to get worse with time.

These are the diseases and disorders that are known to result in chronic kidney disease:

  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Glomerulonephritis (inflammation in the tiny glomeruli in the kidney)
  • Interstitial nephritis (inflammation of tubules and surrounding structure in the kidney)
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Prolonged urinary tract obstruction
  • Recurrent renal (kidney) infection

What are the Risk Factors associated with Chronic Kidney Disease?

These are the several risk factors that are known to increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history of kidney disorders
  • Age (65 years and above)
  • Certain ethnicities (African-American, Native American and Asian American)

What are the Complications caused by Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease can affect the body in various different ways, such as:

  • Fluid retentionThis can cause swelling in the arms and legs as well as high blood pressure and fluid in the lungs to accumulate.
  • Hyperkalemia A sudden rise in the potassium levels in the blood stream can affect the heart’s ability to function normally and can also prove fatal.
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Bone fractures
  • Anemia
  • Impotence
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Decreased immune system functions
  • Pericarditis
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Irreversible kidney damage

How is Chronic Kidney Disease diagnosed?

These are the commonly performed diagnostic tests to help determine if the person has chronic kidney disease:

  • Blood testThese tests help to check the functioning of the kidney in terms of the level of waste product in the blood stream.
  • Urine test Analyzing a sample of your urine may help identify abnormalities which indicate towards chronic kidney disease and also help to identify the cause of it.
  • Imaging tests Ultrasound tests are most effective in creating a clear image of the kidney’s internal and external structure using sound waves.
  • Biopsy This involves removing a small piece of the damaged kidney for detailed pathological analysis. It helps to determine the cause of the chronic kidney disease.

How is Chronic Kidney Disease treated?

Some of the kidney diseases can be successfully treated depending on their causes. Often, chronic kidney disease does not have any cure.

Mostly, the treatment for kidney disease is aimed at controlling the signs and symptoms of the disease as well as to slow the progress of the disease any further.

Treating the Cause

The doctor will aim to control (or slow down) the progress of the kidney disease. There are several treatment options and the exact type will depend on the main cause for the development of the condition.

Treating the Complications

The chronic kidney disease is controlled in order to add comfort to the patient.

These are the common treatment methods for treating the complications arising out of chronic kidney disease:

  • Hypertension medicationsThe medications for controlling high blood pressure helps to lower the abnormal blood pressure as well as to preserve the kidney functions.
  • Cholesterol controlling medications Statin medications are used to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood. Higher cholesterol levels in the blood can lead to heat disease.
  • Anemia treatment Medications such as hormone supplements for ‘erythropoietin’ with added iron are recommended to increase the production of red blood cells and relieve the fatigue and other signs being caused by anemia.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicationsFluid retention in the body due to chronic kidney disease leads to swelling in the arms and legs, including higher blood pressure. Diuretics can help to maintain the fluid levels at normal in the body.

Treating End-Stage Kidney Disease

In case the kidney damage is extensive and the complications are varied, the disease may reach end-stage kidney disease level.

These are the treatment options for this condition:

  • DialysisThis is an artificial procedure to clear and remove waste and excessive fluids from the body using a machine. A hemodialysis machine helps to filter the blood to remove excess fluid and to sort out the waste products in the blood stream from the body. This is performed using the peritoneal treatment (requiring catheter in the abdomen).
  • Kidney Transplant Kidney transplant is a major surgical procedure required for an organ transplant, in this case a donor kidney. The surgeon will use a healthy donor kidney to replace the damaged kidneys. This new donor kidney helps to restore the functions of the kidney in cleaning and filtering the waste from the body efficiently and effectively. This makes the need for dialysis redundant.

Chronic kidney diseases are dangerous and can lead to often fatal complications if left undiagnosed and untreated for a long time.

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