Heard so much about the heart, but so less about kidneys, right? Our kidneys don’t get a lot of love, and definitely don’t get the attention or concern associated with other major organs like our heart, liver, and lungs. Kidneys are the unsung organs of public health campaigns. We know how to care for our hearts (exercise and eating well) and lungs (cut out cigarettes), but watching for the warning signs in kidney damage is not common knowledge. That doesn’t mean that kidneys aren’t equally important — in fact, they’re vital. The heart may be the main squeeze, but it relies on multiple partners, especially the kidneys. They work together.
Kidney disease is often silent and often is not on the medical radar until the kidneys are close to failing and can only be picked up by blood and urine tests. A billion people across the world are affected it, and it claims the lives of millions of people each year. A person can lose up to 90% of his or her kidney function before experiencing any signs.
The initial malfunctioning disorder which marks the onset of kidney failure is known by a difficultly pronounced term, focal segmental glomerulo sclerosis (FSGS). It is scarring in the kidneys’ tiny blood vessels that filter waste from the blood. Once these filters are scarred, they can’t be repaired. If the scarring becomes significant enough, the damage can lead to kidney failure, which means a lifetime of dialysis, a kidney transplant or death.
Since my mother and sister died due to renal failure, I know the trauma a patient’s family has to undergo. I still shudder when I remember my sister’s battle with death. I know some basic facts which I keep sharing with people.
HERE ARE SOME FACTS ABOUT KIDNEYS WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW.
They’re smaller than you think
Your kidneys are shaped like beans, and each is about the size of a fist. They are located near the middle of your back, one on either side of your spine, just below your rib cage. Each kidney is connected to your bladder by a thin tube called a ureter. .Though the kidneys weigh just 0.5% of the entire body weight, they actually receive more arterial blood compared to other organs in body. Almost 25% of the blood pumped by the heart goes to the kidneys.
They do a great amount of work
Your kidneys filter waste and extra water (fluid) out of your blood to make urine (pee). Every day, your kidneys filter about 30 gallons of blood to remove about two quarts (half a gallon) of extra water and waste products. They contain 140 miles of tubes and more than a million filters. They will perform even when they have lost 75-80 per cent of their function. The waste products in your blood come from the food you eat and the use of your muscles. This waste and extra water make up your urine.
They play a key metabolic role
As the kidneys clean the blood, they simultaneously regulate the body’s fluid levels, and keep blood minerals such as sodium, phosphorus and potassium in balance. Healthy kidneys also impact other functions in the body. They activate vitamin D to maintain healthy bones, and release hormones that direct the production of red blood cells and regulate blood pressure.
You can live with one kidney
Some people are born with just one kidney; the single organ usually becomes slightly larger to compensate for its missing partner, and people with one kidney can be just as healthy as those with two. If only one kidney is present, it can adjust to filter as much as two kidneys would normally. If one functional kidney is missing from birth, the other can grow to reach a size similar to the combined weight of two kidneys.
What are the causes of kidney disease
The causes of loss of kidney function can include an infection such as HIV; toxicity caused by a drug; obesity, which is taxing on kidneys; and underlying diseases that affect the whole body, such as sickle cell anemia, diabetes(types one and two) high blood pressure and lupus. There may also be a genetic component.
The correct lifestyle for healthy kidneys
Kidney disease can often be treated with lifestyle changes and medication to control blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol levels. Take care of your kidneys by staying hydrated (urine should be clear), eating a balanced diet that is low in salt-heavy and fatty foods, watch your blood pressure, exercise at least 30 minutes a day, don’t smoke, and only drink alcohol in moderation. Obesity alone doubles a person’s risk of developing kidney disease; an unhealthy diet raises the risk even when weight and other lifestyle factors are taken into account. Adding bitter greens like dandelion and parsley in your diet, can help keep things moving through your kidneys and the rest of your body.
HERE ARE 12 POSSIBLE SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE KIDNEY DISEASE
It’s important to know the symptoms of kidney disease, because it can be threatening to your overall health. They include: puffy eyes, hands, and feet (edema); fatigue; nausea and vomiting; thirst; persistently itchy skin; weight loss; and a yellowish-brown tint to the skin. However, mild to moderate kidney disease may not have any obvious symptoms.
- You’re more tired, have less energy or are having trouble concentrating,
- You have high blood pressure or hypertension,
- You experience shortness of breath when you lie down,
- You are experiencing weight loss,
- You’re having trouble sleeping,
- You have dry and itchy skin,
- You feel the need to urinate more often (particularly at night),
- You have protein or blood in the urine or frothy urine,
- You’re experiencing persistent puffiness around your eyes,
- Your ankles and feet are swollen,
- You have a poor appetite,
- Your muscles are cramping,
TREATMENT FOR KIDNEY FAILURE
With advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD), patients may require renal replacement therapy, such a dialysis or renal transplantation. There are two types of dialysis. In hemodialysis the blood percolates through an artificial kidney (external machine). The alternative dialysis procedure is peritoneal dialysis which uses the inside lining of your abdomen (the peritoneum) as the filter, rather than a machine. Like the kidneys, the peritoneum contains thousands of tiny blood vessels, making it a useful filtering device.
The two techniques are equally effective for most people, but each has its own advantages and drawbacks .Haemodialysis has to be undertaken on alternate days but treatment sessions last longer and you may need to visit hospital each time. Peritoneal dialysis can be done quite easily at home and can sometimes be done while you sleep, but it needs to be done every day
The optimal treatment for end-stage renal disease is renal transplantation in an otherwise healthy patient. The best option is for a live donor transplant with a family member such as a parent or sibling. Living unrelated donor transplants may be performed with spouses, friends, cousins, and so on. If no live donor is available, a patient may be placed on the deceased donor waiting list.
Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker .He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades .He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org