Kidney Disease


Kidney Disease

Your kidneys filter extra water and wastes out of your blood and make urine. Your kidneys also help control blood pressure so that your body can stay healthy. Kidney disease means that the kidneys are damaged and can't filter blood like they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in the body. It can also cause other problems that can harm your health.

For most people, kidney damage occurs slowly over many years, often due to diabetes or high blood pressure. This is called chronic kidney disease. When someone has a sudden change in kidney function—because of illness, or injury, or have taken certain medications—this is called acute kidney injury. This can occur in a person with normal kidneys or in someone who already has kidney problems.

Kidney disease is a growing problem. More than 20 million Americans may have kidney disease and many more are at risk. Anyone can develop kidney disease, regardless of age or race. The main risk factors for developing kidney disease are:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease
  • A family history of kidney failure.

Kidney Disease Diagnosis

Lab tests are the only way to know if you have kidney problems. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or another risk factor, ask about your kidneys at your next medical appointment. Again, the only way to know if you have kidney symptoms is to get tested. And the sooner kidney disease is found, the sooner you can take steps to keep your kidneys healthier longer.

A blood test and a urine test are used for kidney disease testing. If you have diabetes, you should get both of these tests every year. If you have high blood pressure, you should also get tested regularly -- ask your physician how often.

The blood test helps your doctor measure how much blood your kidneys filter each minute. This shows how well your kidneys are working. The test is called "GFR" (glomerular filtration rate).

The urine test looks for protein in your urine, which is a sign of kidney disease. This test has several different names. You could be told that you are being screened for "proteinuria" or "albuminuria" or "microalbuminuria." ("Albumin" is a type of protein, and "micro" means a small amount of it.) Or you could be told that your "urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio" (UACR) is being measured.

If you have albumin or protein in your urine, it could mean you have kidney disease. Your physician might do additional tests to be sure.

Other tests useful for screening for kidney disease and kidney failure/renal failure are:

  • an ultrasound scan to get a picture of your kidneys and urinary tract. This tells your physician whether your kidneys are too large or too small, whether you have a problem like a kidney stone or tumor and whether there are any problems in the structure of your kidneys and urinary tract. The kidney scan is included in the body scan offered by Cardio-Med.
  • a kidney biopsy, which is done in some cases to check for a specific type of kidney disease, see how much kidney damage has occurred and help plan treatment. To do a biopsy, the doctor removes small pieces of kidney tissue and looks at them under a microscope.

Your physician may also ask you to see a kidney specialist who will consult on your case and help manage your care.

Kidney Disease Treatment

The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help delay or prevent kidney failure. Treatment may include taking medicines called ACE inhibitors or ARBs to manage high blood pressure and keep your kidneys healthier longer. Treating kidney disease may also help prevent heart disease.

Kidney failure (renal failure) may require dialysis, a procedure that "cleans" the blood as much as possible, partly mimicking the function of the kidneys. Renal failure is a serious condition. Dialysis is only a partial solution.

Call (847)758-1230 today for an appointment and consultation with our physician.

Adapted from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases