Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

One in ten people worldwide have some form of kidney damage. Hypertension and heart disease are the most common reasons for chronic kidney disease, which can also result from diabetes, kidney stones, or certain types of cancer. Other conditions that damage the kidneys include an inflammation of the filtering mechanism in the kidney called glomerulonephritis, a condition called polycystic kidney disease in which cysts develop on the kidneys, enlarged prostate obstructing the urinary tract, a condition in which urine backs up into the kidneys called vesicoureteral reflux, and recurrent kidney infection.

Regardless of the cause, early detection of chronic kidney disease is the best way to ensure you get the treatment you need to avoid loss of kidney function—and death from cardiovascular disease, a frequent consequence of chronic kidney disease even when renal failure doesn’t develop. Fortunately, kidney disease is both easily detected and easily treated. Blood and urine tests can detect signs of kidney disease even in the absence of symptoms. Ultrasound can indicate changes in the size or density of the kidneys that point to health problems. Symptoms of chronic kidney disease include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, changes in the amount and quality of urine, persistent itching, and sometimes chest pain. However, kidney disease symptoms can be nonspecific and without any obvious connection to kidney function, and there may not be any symptoms at all.

Treatment for kidney disease generally involves treating the underlying cause—if it’s cancer, hypertension enlarged prostate, or something like that, treating that condition will also help the kidneys. Most commonly, reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, quitting smoking, and in general taking steps to reduce heart disease are also beneficial for kidney disease. In addition, the effects of kidney disease can be addressed with medication as well. For example, kidney disease can cause swelling and anemia, and those can be treated with medicines. Some lifestyle changes, such as a reducing the amount of protein in the diet, can lessen the burden on the kidneys and protect them that way.

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