Chronic kidney disease - Symptoms and causes

Chronic kidney disease – Symptoms and causes

Health & Fitness

What is Chronic Kidney Disease, and how can you recognize its symptoms?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition where your kidney gradually loses efficiency in its functions, ultimately leading to the complete failure of the organs. Approximately 1.2 million Indians died of CKD in 2016.

The number is only thought to have risen over the years, as the existing dialysis facilities can cater to only about 1/3rd of the actual requirement. CKD is, thus, a life-threatening condition, and you should be aware of kidney disease symptoms and causes so you can prevent the onset of CKD.

Symptoms of CKD:

The more severe symptoms of kidney disease only show up in the later stages of the disease, but the following conditions may be an indicator that your kidney is not functioning optimally. If you notice these symptoms, it is a good idea to consult your doctor, who can subject you to necessary tests and determine the course of action.

  • Fatigue: 

7 out of 10 kidney patients report feeling tired. The kidney’s primary function is to filter your blood and remove unwanted chemicals. It improves the blood’s ability to carry the necessary oxygen to various parts of your body. When this is impeded, you can experience a long-lasting loss of energy. Another cause for fatigue is most likely lack of sleep, viz., insomnia.

  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders: 

Lack of sleep is another common symptom among CKD patients. Although your lifestyle, age, weight, existing medical conditions, and treatment may also lead to abnormal sleeping patterns, it is highly likely that your insomnia is caused by CKD. Some patients also report sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, sleepwalking, and nightmares.

  • Swollen feet and ankles:

Your kidneys are responsible for regulating the volume of various body fluids. When they cannot function adequately, these fluids are not drained and instead accumulate within the legs, ankles, feet, hands, and face.

  • Blood pressure:

High blood pressure can be both a cause as well as a symptom of CKD. A healthy kidney regulates blood pressure through its renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. In an unhealthy kidney, the system is overactive and causes a high volume of fluid in the body, which in turn increases blood pressure. If you do not control your blood pressure at this point, the kidney can be overworked and will deteriorate further.

  • Dry, discolored, and itchy skin:

Advanced kidney failure can have an effect on the skin of the patient due to chemical imbalance in the body. The skin can become very dry and can develop fish-like scales. Some patients complain of itchiness and may develop rashes on the skin.

  • Abnormalities in the urine:

The urine is an excellent indicator of how well your kidneys are functioning. Diseased kidneys cause the urine to have abnormal levels of albumin (a protein), creatinine (a waste product), and sometimes blood. 

Causes of CKD:

Nearly 60% of CKD cases are caused either by diabetes or hypertension. 33% of diabetics and 20% of hypertension patients develop CKD.

  • Diabetes mellitus:

This is a condition where the glucose level in the blood is much higher than normal. As one of the functions of the kidneys is to filter out excess glucose from the blood, it begins to work overtime to maintain balance. Diabetic kidney disease is detected by a high presence of albumin in the urine.

If you are diabetic, doctors would recommend regular urine tests to keep a tab on your kidneys.

  • High blood pressure:

High blood pressure can damage the walls of nephrons – the building blocks of your kidney. Damaged nephrons will not be able to perform filtering operations efficiently. Thus, excess fluid is retained in the blood vessels, resulting in increased blood pressure.

Other less prevalent causes include Glomerulonephritis, interstitial nephritis, genetic conditions- such as polycystic kidney disease, kidney stones, and cancer.

Chronic Kidney Disease is a life-threatening, irreversible condition that can only be managed by dialysis or a kidney transplant. This is one disease where prevention is much better than cure. Watch your body for signs of the kidney disease symptoms mentioned above, and consult your doctor at the earliest if you notice them.     

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