What You Need to Know About Chronic Kidney Disease and how to manage it

Stages of chronic kidney disease
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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an extended illness that can be caused by several varying factors, ranging from basic dehydration to far more serious issues such as glomerulonephritis.

The kidneys are essential for preserving the body’s health since they sift through and eliminate waste products from the bloodstream in the form of urine.

Once the kidneys become impaired or sick, their capacity to function correctly is impeded, which leads to the associated symptoms of chronic kidney disorder.

Around three decades ago, my mom who was in her sixties was afflicted with CKD. Back in the nineties, there were just a few medical centers in Navi Mumbai that had dialysis facilities.

It was very difficult for us as she had to go through dialysis twice a week. Her kidney capability was at 25 percent then.

 After her dialysis, she would feel totally exhausted, and we had to get help to take her to my flat which was on the second floor.

Why am I telling you this? Well, you need to be aware that chronic kidney disorder can have a terrible impact on a person’s life.

If not attended to on time, CKD can cause a great deal of trouble for those who have it and their families. Apart from that, the expenses involved are also exorbitant.

The point I would like to drive home here is, chronic kidney disease is preventable, and we should all strive to do exactly that. I have been telling my patients what I always believed in- Prevention is better than Cure!

In this article, we explore what causes CKD as well as its potential complications and treatments. If you have been recently diagnosed with CKD or are worried about your risk of developing it, continue reading for all the information you need to understand this condition better and begin taking steps toward recovery.

What is chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition that has a number of different causes, from simple dehydration to much more serious conditions such as glomerulonephritis.

The kidneys play a critical role in keeping the body healthy by filtering waste products from the blood and excreting them via urine. When the kidneys become damaged or diseased, their ability to function properly is compromised, leading to the various symptoms associated with chronic kidney disease.

CKD is usually diagnosed when the kidneys have lost approximately 50% of their original capacity. However, damage may be occurring before any signs or symptoms are noticed. CKD is also referred to as chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure.

Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease has many causes and is associated with many different types of diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

One of the main causes of chronic kidney disease is the buildup of proteins in the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering blood and excreting waste products via urine. Over time, the kidneys can become damaged and less effective, resulting in chronic kidney disease.

This condition can also occur due to long-term damage or disease in the kidneys, such as infections and certain diseases that affect the blood vessels in the kidneys. Most cases of chronic kidney disease are the result of long-term damage to the kidneys, but certain conditions can also cause acute kidney failure.

Potential causes of chronic kidney disease include – Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and metabolic disorders.

CKD Symptoms and Diagnosis

Depending on the severity of the disease, some people with chronic kidney disease may not experience any symptoms at all. Others may experience mild symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating and poor sleep quality.

CKD symptoms are generally caused by an increase in blood urea and creatinine. You should look out for these signs and symptoms-

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in feet, ankles, and legs
  • Nausea and vomiting and loss of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Skin and nail changes
  • Changes in urination frequency [reduced urine output] and color
  • Abdominal pain and/or lumps
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath due to accumulation of fluid in the lungs
  • Smell of ammonia in the breath, called uremic fetor.

All these signs and symptoms is collectively called Uremia. Many times, chronic kidney disease goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms are not specific to this condition. In fact, many of these symptoms are associated with other, more common conditions.

A diagnosis of chronic kidney disease is usually made after measuring the amount of waste products in the blood and urine. If the amounts are significantly higher than normal, chronic kidney disease may be the cause.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease-

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive condition that can eventually lead to kidney failure.

It’s important to understand the five stages of CKD in order to manage and treat the condition.
Stage 1 is when you first begin to experience damage to your kidneys, but there are usually no visible symptoms. This is why it’s important to visit your doctor regularly so they can detect any signs of CKD early on.
Stage 2 is when the levels of your creatinine and other waste products start to rise. This is usually when you first start to experience symptoms like fatigue and loss of appetite.


Stage 3 is when the kidneys start to struggle to filter out waste and fluids. This is when you may experience more serious symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and a decrease in urination.


Stage 4 is when the kidneys have reduced functioning and can no longer keep up with the body’s needs. You may experience severe symptoms like extreme fatigue and anemia.


Stage 5 is end-stage kidney disease and is when you may need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

stages of chronic kidney disease

The earlier you can detect CKD and begin treatment, the better your outcome will be. So, make sure to visit your doctor/nephrologist at the earliest.

Investigations to rule out CKD

  • Assessment of kidney function through laboratory tests, such as measuring creatinine, urea, electrolytes, and urine protein. Creatine and blood urea are raised as also the urine protein levels. The urine may also show casts of the nephrons, called Hyaline casts, which can be used to confirm CKD.
  • Imaging tests, such as X-rays, ultrasound, or CT scans, to examine the shape, size, and any abnormalities in the kidneys
  • Blood tests to check for conditions that can cause chronic kidney disease
  • Biopsy to examine a sample of kidney tissue for signs of damage

Complications of Chronic Kidney Disease

The most common complication of chronic kidney disease is the inability to regulate blood pressure. This can result in shortness of breath and dizziness.

Other common complications of chronic kidney disease include anemia (low red blood cell count), high potassium levels in the blood, fatigue, swelling in the legs and abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, cramps at night, and feeling anxious.

In more serious cases of chronic kidney disease, complications may occur that require immediate medical attention, including infections, organ failure, blood clots, electrolyte abnormalities and mental health issues.

Treatment for Chronic Kidney Disease

The best way to prevent and manage chronic kidney disease is through early detection and treatment of risk factors.

While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, there are a number of ways in which patients can stay healthy and reduce the risk of complications.

This includes eating a balanced diet and limiting intake of salt and sugar, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, avoiding harmful substances and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

A number of medications can also help reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar and prevent urinary tract infections. Additionally, people with chronic kidney disease can benefit from daily vitamins and mineral supplements.

Some people with chronic kidney disease are prescribed an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) to prevent or treat anemia.

A full-blown CKD requires dialysis. Read here how dialysis is carried out- How is Dialysis done

Useful resources

  1. CKD
  2. Dialysis [a video]
  3. Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

Conclusion

Chronic kidney disease is a long-term condition that has a number of different causes, from simple dehydration to much more serious conditions such as glomerulonephritis.

The kidneys play a critical role in keeping the body healthy by filtering waste products from the blood and excreting them via urine. When the kidneys become damaged or diseased, their ability to function properly is compromised, leading to the various symptoms associated with chronic kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease has many causes and is associated with many different types of diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. One of the main causes of chronic kidney disease is the buildup of proteins in the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering blood and excreting waste products via urine.

Over time, the kidneys can become damaged and less effective, resulting in chronic kidney disease. This condition can also occur due to long-term damage or disease in the kidneys, such as infections and certain diseases that affect the blood vessels in the kidneys.

The best way to prevent and manage chronic kidney disease is through early detection and treatment of risk factors. While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, there are a number of ways in which patients can stay healthy and reduce the risk of complications.

This includes eating a balanced diet and limiting intake of salt and sugar, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, avoiding harmful substances and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

A number of medications can also help reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar and prevent urinary tract infections. Additionally, people with chronic kidney disease can benefit from daily vitamins and mineral supplements.

Final words-

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