Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease....are you at risk?

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, describes the loss of kidney function over time.

Your kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine.  When your kidneys aren’t working properly, toxins can build up in your blood and your body retains fluid.  The risk is that if the fluid isn’t cleared, essential organs such as your heart can be affected.

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, there are often no symptoms which means that people have no idea about issues with their kidneys until they are quite unwell. Chronic kidney disease is called a silent disease as there are often no warning signs. Signs that may indicate reduced kidney function include high blood pressure, change in the amount and number of times urine is passed, change in appearance of your urine including blood in your urine, Swelling in your legs, ankles and eyes, Pain in your kidney area, tiredness, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, headaches, itchiness, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, bad or metallic breath, muscle cramps.

One in three people in Australia is at increased risk of kidney disease. You can lose up to 90% of your kidney function before getting any symptoms.

Treatment for chronic kidney disease focuses initially on slowing the progression of the kidney damage, usually by controlling the underlying cause. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage kidney failure, which is fatal without artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant.

So who is at risk?

People with the following health conditions are more at risk of developing chronic kidney disease:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Established heart problems
  • History of a stroke
  • Family history of kidney failure
  • A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher
  • Smoker
  • Over 60 years of age
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgroun
  • History of an acute kidney injury

There are 5 stages of chronic kidney disease. Each stage of chronic kidney disease is related to the level of kidney function and kidney damage. Kidney function worsens over a number of years. If kidney disease is found early lifestyle changes such as weight loss, eating  a balanced diet and limiting salt intake along with  medication can increase the life of your kidneys and keep you feeling best for as long as possible.  Once you reach stage 5 of kidney disease dialysis is required. 

There are 3 tests to check the health of your kidneys:

  1. Blood test – this test determines the level of waste products in your blood and calculates what is called your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR)
  2. A urine test – this checks the amount of Albumin (type of protein) or blood in your urine
  3. Monitor your blood pressure – kidney disease causes high blood pressure and high blood pressure causes kidney disease.

If you have any concerns about your kidneys, then please consult your GP or health practitioner.  They can advise you on your risk of developing kidney concerns and will be able to test your kidney function.  Kidney Health Australia have an online test you can do to test your kidney health and give you some ideas of how to proceed if you are at risk.

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