Our kidneys have an important role in our body. Besides filtering blood, these small bean-shaped organs also assist in keeping the right amount of fluids in the body like regulating the body's level of pH levels, sodium, potassium and calcium.
Without this critical filtration system to maintain balance in the body, toxins like urea can accumulate and these can affect the brain and the heart.
According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), there are about five new kidney failure patients a day, and one new dialysis patient every five hours. In 2014, about 1,730 Singaporeans suffered from kidney failure, up from 1,657 the year before.
In any case, our kidneys can get damaged and when they are, they are unable to carry out their functions to keep our body healthy.
What is Kidney Disease?
Kidney disease means your kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood the way they should. The inability of the kidney to remove potassium from the blood may lead to abnormal heart rhythms and sudden death. Other kidney problems include acute kidney injury, kidney cysts, kidney stones, and kidney infections.
Kidney disease doesn’t happen overnight, and there are several factors that might escalate the condition.
You are at greater risk for kidney disease if you have:
- High blood pressure
- A family history of kidney failure
- Being age 60/ older
When kidney disease become serious, it is classified as “chronic kidney disease”, which means lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time. There are 5 stages to measure the severity from Stage 1 as mild damage to Stage 5 as total kidney failure.
First Signs of Kidney Disease:
When kidneys are unable to carry out their functions or fail, it can lead to a build-up of toxins and impurities in the blood. There are a few common symptoms that one can experience when this happens:
- Nausea & poor appetite
- Fatigue, tiredness
- Weakness & feeling faint
- Dry skin & itching
- Weight loss
- Need to urinate more often
- Muscle cramps (especially in the legs)
- Swelling of your hands, feet or ankles
- Swollen/ puffy face
- Anaemia (a low blood count)/ feeling cold all the time
- Shortness of breath even with little effort
- Trouble sleeping
Causes of Kidney Disease:
If you do not care for your health and body, kidney disease will start to worsen. This may lead to complete kidney failure and the need for dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant to stay alive.
While effective treatments are available for many kidney diseases, people are sometimes unaware that kidney disease can often be prevented.
There are several plausible causes of kidney disease:
- Injury & Infections
- Diabetes: In people with diabetes, kidneys do not filter as well. A high sugar level in the blood damages the small filters (glomeruli) in the kidneys.
- Certain Medicine: If used too often, some medicine can cause kidney damage. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), contrast drugs (dyes) used in x-rays and scans, bowel cleaning products
- High Blood Pressure: Second most common cause of chronic kidney disease because high blood pressure causes the kidneys to work twice as hard as usual and this can damage the filters.
- Other Kidney conditions: Obstructions like kidney stones, or cysts in the kidneys (known as polycystic kidney disease); Glomerulonephritis (infection that affects the glomeruli – small filtering parts of the kidneys).
Prevention & Treatment:
If you experience kidney failure, the usual treatments include kidney transplant or dialysis.
Nevertheless, if you have health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure, it is advisable to constantly live a healthy lifestyle in preventing kidney disease, or keeping it under control. Some of these steps include exercising, keeping a low-salt and low-fat diet, limit alcohol, not smoking and regular check-ups with your doctor.
We all need regular check-ups with our doctor no matter how much we think we are healthy. WhatsDoc offers that easy access for you to find an online doctor for advice and consultations relating to any health issues. Download the app and speak to one now!
Having with us in this kidney speciality is Dr Francisco Salcido-Ochoa, a nephrologist (renal physician) and transplant immunologist practising at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. He specialises in treating chronic kidney disease, kidney failure, general nephrology and acid-base and electrolyte metabolic disorders, and is experienced in kidney transplantation, kidney dialysis and renal replacement therapies.
He currently launched “A Comprehensive Guide to Kidney Health & Disease” which can be accessed for free: https://www.franciscokidneycentre.com/kidney-health-guide/
14. Kidney Disease