What Is Kidney Disease?
The kidneys are critically important organs that perform multiple functions. They are located in your back area. In simple terms, the kidneys work to “clean house” inside your body. Your blood has waste products and excess fluids that you don’t need. The kidneys continuously flush these elements through your bloodstream and out of your body – which also helps to keep your blood pressure under control. The kidneys also keep your fluids and minerals in balance by producing important enzymes, vitamins and proteins your body needs every day.
When the kidneys don’t function properly, they can become damaged – and eventually lead to kidney disease – which is very dangerous. Kidney damage can be caused by traumatic injury, a medical problem or use of certain medications.
The two most common causes of kidney disease are high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) and diabetes (both types 1 and 2). Left unchecked, high blood pressure can also cause stroke, heart attack, heart failure and other medical problems. Kidney disease occurs gradually over time and causes kidney function to diminish. This, in turn, causes excess waste and fluid build-up in your body.
Kidney Disease Prevention
The best way to prevent kidney disease it to maintain your overall health, and see your doctor for regular yearly physical exams that include blood pressure checks, routine blood tests and a urine test. It’s important to discuss all medications you are taking – including any herbs, vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter items such as ibuprofen (i.e., Advil, Aleve). Some of these can affect the way your kidneys function, so your doctor will want to see the overall picture. The early stages of kidney disease often occur without symptoms, so visiting your physician every year is very important.
Kidney Disease Staging
Chronic kidney disease is classified in five “stages”. Each stage is based on what is known as GFR – or Glomerular Filtration Rate. GFR illustrates how well your kidneys are functioning, filtering your blood and removing excess fluids and waste products. The lower the GFR number, the lower the kidney function. Your doctor calculates this with a formula based on your gender, age and race as well as a blood test that measures your body’s creatinine level.
The stages of kidney disease range from normal kidney functioning with some type of abnormality (Stage I) to end stage kidney failure (Stage V).