Chronic kidney disease is the slow loss of kidney function over a period of several years. Eventually it leads to permanent kidney failure. It is more widespread than people think and often goes undiagnosed and undetected until it’s too late. Detection of chronic kidney failure at an early stage is very important to control the damage.
Chronic kidney disease occurs when a condition or disease impairs kidney function, resulting in damaged kidneys. The damage worsens over several months or years.
Causes of chronic kidney disease include:
- Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the kidney’s glomerulus.
- Interstitial nephritis, an inflammation of the kidney’s tubules and surrounding structures
- A family history of Polycystic kidney disease
- Enlarged prostate, kidney stones or recurrent infections which cause prolonged blockage of urinary tract
- Vesicoureteral reflux, reverse flow of urine into the kidney
- Autoimmune disorders
- Injury to the kidney
- Some toxic chemicals or intake of medicines, such as pain and cancer drugs
Signs of kidney disease are mostly non-specific, which means that they can be caused due to other health conditions as well. Therefore, most people who have a chronic kidney disease don’t even know it until it’s too late. Kidneys are highly adaptable and carry out their functions even when they are not completely healthy, so symptoms may not appear until too much damage has been caused. While the only way to be sure if you have chronic kidney failure is to get tested by a doctor, here are some possible early signs to help you detect it sooner:
- Feeling tired, weak and having trouble concentrating – Improper kidney function builds up impurities and toxins in the blood. This can cause you to feel tired and can make it hard to concentrate. Anemia, being another complication of kidney failure, can cause weakness and fatigue.
- Swollen ankles and feet- Sodium retention, which is caused due to decreased kidney function causing swelling in your ankles and feet.
- Dry and itchy skin – Dry and itchy skin are caused due to mineral and bone disease that are often accompanied by kidney disease, when the kidneys are unable to balance nutrients and minerals in your blood.
- Sleeping problems and loss of appetite – When the kidney is not functioning properly, the toxins stay in your blood rather than leaving with your urine, cause you to have sleeping troubles. It also causes a loss of appetite.
- Changes in your urine and how much you urinate – If you urinate more often than usual, especially during the night, this can be a symptom of chronic kidney disease. This stands true if your urine also contains blood. If there are excessive bubbles in your urine, especially those that need several flushes to go away, indicate that there is protein in your urine. All of these signs could be possible symptoms of chronic kidney disease.
- Persistent puffiness around eyes – When protein gets leaked into the urine rather than remaining in the body, puffiness around eyes occur. This is an early sign of chronic kidney disease.
- Muscle twitches and cramps – Impaired kidney function can cause electrolyte imbalance. Poorly controlled phosphorus and low calcium levels may contribute to muscle cramping.
- Other symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, ammonia breath, weight loss, and chest pain.
- Treatment: Depending on the cause, a few types of chronic kidney diseases can be treated. Usually though chronic kidney diseases cannot be cured. But treatment can include reducing complications, controlling signs and symptoms and slowing down progression of the disease. If detected at an early stage, you may only need medication and regular tests to monitor chronic kidney disease. This can prevent the damage from becoming worse.
Making lifestyle changes can help treat stage 1 of kidney disease. These include no smoking, regularly exercising, keeping blood sugar under control and maintaining a proper diet that includes:
- Limiting fluids
- Eating less protein, fat and cholesterol-rich food.
- Restricting phosphorous, salt, potassium and other electrolytes
Always follow your doctor’s prescriptions for your treatment. Some medicines that you may be recommended to take may include phosphate binders, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, extra calcium and vitamin D. Even though there is no cure for kidney disease, it is possible to slow down the damage if detected early. In many cases, certain lifestyle changes and correct treatment at the right time can help your kidneys stay healthy for a much longer period of time.