Caring for your kidneys

Sudeep Singh Sachdev
Sunday, 29 April 2018

Kidney disease is currently the 8th leading cause of mortality among women worldwide. Here’s how you can make sure that your kidneys stay healthy

Kidney disorders are a health concern with severe outcomes such as kidney failure and premature mortality. The prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) among women has not only become as common as that among men, but recent studies imply that the chances of women developing this disease are five per cent more than men.

CKD is also considered a risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcome and reduced fertility. Women who have CKD are at increased risk for things to go wrong during childbirth. Pregnancies in women with advanced CKD are most challenging with high rates of hypertensive disorders and preterm births. It comes as a shocker to many that the kidneys, each about the size of a fist, play such a major role in your wellbeing.

What causes renal disorders?
So what exactly causes these two little fist-sized organs to suddenly go out of order? Kidney diseases are mostly caused due to diabetes, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries. However, some of these diseases can also occur due to the inflammation of the kidneys. This condition is called nephritis.

Some anatomic disorders too can lead to renal diseases, and in worse cases, it can cause metabolic disorders. Though chances of the latter happening are thin since they need to be inherited from both parents.

Other causes for renal disorders include blockages which drain the kidneys or the medications that are toxic to the kidney tissue. 

The causes can vary, and so can the symptoms. Some very common symptoms however are too much or too little urine, and passing blood or abnormal levels of chemicals in urine. But if the disease is caused by a bacterial infection, the first sign is high fever. In case of moderate or mild kidney diseases, there might be no detectable symptoms at all. But to say that these do not cause any pain will be incorrect. Kidney stones in the ureter are known to cause a cramping pain that spreads from the lower back to the groin area. The disease can lead to chronic or acute kidney failure. 

How to keep your kidneys healthy?
Diet — A balanced diet contains a mixture of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Avoid processed food and fizzy drinks in order to maintain proper sugar and salt level. Stay fit, active and eat well to ensure that you do not become overweight. Take part in sports and physical activities..

Consume water — Healthy fluid intake is necessary for keeping your kidney healthy. Drinking water is most important. 
Quit smoking — Kicking the butt is the best way to ensure that you have a healthier life. Smoking can not only lead to renal problems, but also many other health complications. 
Medicines and drugs — Intake of Aspirin and other banned drugs may directly affect the kidney or liver. It dehydrates the body and results in kidney failure.
Reduce sodium intake — Too much of sodium can lead to hypertension. Cutting down on salt intake is a wise thing to do. The amount of salt you should consume daily ranges from 1.5 to 2.3 gm. 
Increase potassium intake — Potassium helps in balancing the water level and reduces the effect of sodium thereby reducing blood pressure. Potatoes, spinach, beans, low fat dairy products are rich in potassium. 

How to diagnose?
The real problem however lies in the diagnosis of the disease. Unless there’s a tumour or the kidneys are swollen, it becomes difficult for doctors to make a thorough diagnosis without extensive tests. Urine samples and tests for protein, sugar, blood, and ketones are essential for proper diagnosis for kidney-related issues.

What are the treatment options?
When treating kidneys, doctors tend to concentrate more on the underlying cause of the disease. Treating the original cause can help return the kidneys to their normal functioning. But in most of kidney failure cases, the blood pressure has first to be brought to be normal in order to evade any more progression of disease. 

End-stage kidney failures are only controlled by dialysis or kidney transplant. Dialysis can be done once a week or more often depending on the condition. In case of transplant the diseased kidneys are replaced by new and healthy ones. These transplants are said to work 80 per cent of the time. The only fear in this case is the body rejecting the transplant. The risk, however, is worth it because a healthy kidney can help you live a better life. Bacterial infections can be cured by antibiotics.

(Dr Sudeep Singh Sachdev is a nephrologist, at Narayana Super Speciality Hospital, Gurugram)

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