Chronic kidney disease is a long-term condition where the kidneys do not work effectively. Most people are born with two kidneys which are responsible for filtering out waste products from the body passed out as urine. The kidneys also help to control our blood pressure and the number of red cells in the blood. Chronic kidney disease is a common condition globally with about 10% of the world’s population affected and about 10 million people die every year from kidney disease.
In Nigeria, about 25 million Nigerians are living with chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is much more common as we get older and in Africans and South Asians.
WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE?
Chronic kidney disease is caused by the presence of other diseases which puts considerable strain on the kidneys, affecting their function and efficiency. These conditions can be in isolation or as part of a combination. The most common causes are:
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE OR HYPERTENSION: This slowly causes the kidneys to perform sub-optimally over time and will lead to the destruction of parts of the kidneys (called hypertensive nephropathy)
DIABETES: A consequence of excess sugar in the body is the destruction of the kidneys (called diabetic nephropathy).
A FAMILY HISTORY of chronic kidney disease.
HIV: In HIV positive people, kidney disease may occur. This is called HIV associated nephropathy (HIVAN) and increases the risk of developing kidney chronic disease.
HIGH CHOLESTEROL: This leads to a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels carrying blood to the kidneys, making it harder for blood to be supplied efficiently to various part of the body.
KIDNEY INFECTIONS like pyelonephritis.
BLOCKAGE OF URINE caused by kidney stones or an enlarged prostate.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE?
During the early period of the disease, most people have only a few or no symptoms. At this stage, only blood tests or urine tests carried out for other reasons can pick up a problem with the kidneys. However, symptoms arise in the latter stages of the disease. These symptoms may include:
- Itchy skin
- High blood pressure
- Weight loss and poor appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Swollen legs and feet
- Shortness of breath
- Blood in the urine
HOW CAN ONE TEST FOR CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE?
Tests to assess for the health of the kidneys, as well as the extent of the disease (called stage), are usually blood and urine tests. They look at the level of certain substances in your blood and urine which are pointers to the health of the kidneys. Imaging tests such as kidney scans and a biopsy may also be used to assess the health of the kidneys.
HOW IS CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE TREATED?
Chronic kidney disease is an incurable disease at present and treatment is targeted at helping you relieve symptoms and halt the progression of the disease to improve the quality of life. These treatments are specifically tailored to your needs based on the extent of the disease. In many cases, the disease is mild or moderate and well-controlled for years.
Treatment includes making lifestyle changes, using medications to address some of the problems and dialysis (artificial kidney). In advanced cases, a kidney transplant may be suggested by your managing team. Regular check-ups are necessary for people with kidney disease.
HOW CAN ONE PREVENT CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE?
The following tips are important in preventing the development of chronic kidney disease;
REDUCE YOUR RISK: If you have a long-term condition that may lead to the development of kidney disease (such as diabetes or hypertension), reduce your risk by managing them carefully. This can be achieved by taking your medications when necessary, exercising and following the advice of your health professional.
EAT HEALTHILY: Eating a balanced diet goes a long way in providing you with nourishment and energy for the day as well as keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at a healthy level. Eats lots of fruits and vegetables and reduce your intake of saturated fat, salt and sugars.
QUIT SMOKING: Smoking increases your risk of developing a large number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease which makes the development of a kidney disease likelier. Quit smoking to reduce this risk.
EXERCISE: Regular exercise every week (of about 2 to 3 hours) helps reduce your chances of developing hypertension and consequently, kidney disease.
DO NOT USE PAIN MEDICATIONS INDISCRIMINATELY: Pain medications such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen in large doses or for continual usage is linked with the development of kidney disease. Follow the recommendations of your health professional and/or the instructions that come with the medications.
REDUCE YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE: Excessive amounts of alcohol (more than 14 units per week) can cause your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels to rise. Ask your health professional for help in assessing your weekly alcohol intake.