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Chronic Kidney Disease: A Comprehensive Overview

Chronic Kidney Disease: A Comprehensive Overview
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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition where the kidneys do not work as well as they should. It is a prevalent condition affecting millions of individuals worldwide, including a significant number in Ireland. CKD is a serious health concern that needs more awareness and understanding. To help provide better management and reduce its impact on people and communities. In this blog post, we'll explore CKD to help understand this complex condition.

What do our Kidneys do?

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, situated on either side near the middle of your back. Healthy kidneys play a crucial role in filtering and removing waste products and excess fluid from the body.

Apart from this primary function, your kidneys also have other important roles. They help regulate your blood pressure, maintain the health of your bones and heart, and contribute to the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells are vital for transporting oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic Kidney Disease refers to reduced kidney function over time. It is a progressive condition categorised into five stages based on the severity of kidney damage and the decline in renal function. Early stages of CKD may not exhibit noticeable symptoms, making regular screening crucial for early detection and intervention.

Causes of CKD and Risk Factors:

Chronic Kidney Disease is usually caused by a disease or condition that puts a strain on your kidneys over time. Some of the diseases and conditions that may lead to CKD include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Acute kidney injury
  • A family history of kidney disease
  • Over 50 years old
  • Obesity
  • Long term use of over-the counter medication

Who can develop Chronic Kidney Disease?

Anyone can develop Chronic Kidney Disease, however several factors can put you at higher risk:

  1. Diabetes and High blood pressure:
    • Diabetes and high blood pressure are leading causes of CKD. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels and hypertension can damage the kidneys' filtering units over time, leading to kidney disease.
  2. Family History:
    • Individuals with a family history of kidney disease are at a higher risk of developing CKD.
  3. Smoking:
    • Smoking can exacerbate kidney damage and accelerate the progression of CKD.
  4. Obesity:
    • Obesity increases the risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which are significant contributors to CKD.
  5. Age:
    • The risk of CKD increases with age, particularly after the age of 50.

Symptoms and Complications:

Chronic Kidney Disease symptoms may not be noticeable until the condition has progressed significantly. Common symptoms of more advanced kidney disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the ankles, legs, or hands
  • Changes in urine output
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Shortness of breath (from build-up of fluid in the lungs)
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain or loss and lack of appetite
  • Headaches (from high blood pressure)
  • Chest pain or irregular heartbeat (from fluid around the lining of the heart)
  • Blood in your pee (urine)

Complications of untreated CKD can be severe and may include cardiovascular disease, anaemia, bone disease, and fluid overload.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Early diagnosis of CKD is essential for effective management. Blood tests and urine tests are the most common type of diagnosis. These measure the levels of certain substances in your blood and urine to see if your kidneys are working correctly. The results can show what stage your kidney disease is at, the higher the number, the worse it is.

Know your kidney numbers to see if you need treatment:

  • Stage 1 - 90%+ : Normal function if over 60% unless other signs present (e.g. Albumin in the urine)
  • Stage 2 - 60-89% : Normal function if over 60% unless other signs present (e.g. Albumin in the urine)
  • Stage 3 - 30-59% : Moderate to severe loss of kidney function
  • Stage 4 - 15-29% : Severe loss of kidney function
  • Stage 5 - below 15% : Kidney failure need dialysis/treatment

Treatment for CKD focuses on managing symptoms, slowing the progression of the disease, and preventing complications. This may include lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking. Your doctor might prescribe medications to control blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In advanced stages of CKD, dialysis or kidney transplantation may be necessary.

Support and Resources:

The Irish Kidney Association plays a vital role in supporting people with CKD in Ireland. The association offers help to patients and families by providing educational resources, raising awareness, giving financial assistance, and offering support services. It's a source of hope for those dealing with kidney issues.

Chronic Kidney Disease poses a significant health challenge globally, affecting millions of lives each year. However, individuals with CKD can lead fulfilling lives and reduce the impact of this chronic condition. This is with early detection, appropriate management, and support from organisations like the Irish Kidney Association.

By educating, raising awareness, and providing access to healthcare resources, we can strive to improve outcomes for CKD patients. And hopefully reduce the burden of kidney disease on society overall. Let us join hands in the fight against Chronic Kidney Disease and strive for a healthier, kidney-friendly future.