Although kidney diseases are little known, it is estimated that they affect more than four million American, according to data from the American Society of Nephrology. In fact, The U.S.A is most patients affected by kidney problems. In this post, we explain what kidney failure is, why it occurs and how it can be prevented and treated.
What is kidney failure?
The kidneys are the organs that cleanse the blood. That is to say, they eliminate the excess of liquid, salts and minerals, and the waste of our metabolism (toxins). In addition, they produce hormones that are related to the production of red blood cells in the blood, with the regulation of blood pressure and with the absorption of calcium in the bones.
Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys stop working properly, which can happen in two ways:
- Chronic renal failure: when functions are lost in the kidneys slowly and progressively over months or years. It usually does not present symptoms until it is advanced and, once it appears, it remains throughout the patient’s life or until the kidney is transplanted.
- Acute renal failure: the kidneys stop working suddenly, in a matter of hours or a few days. It usually results from other injuries, such as infections, poisonings or sudden losses of a lot of blood (accidents, blows, …). If patients recover from these injuries, kidney function also usually re-establishes with time.
In the event that the kidneys completely stop their activity, we would be facing what is known as kidney failure or kidney failure.
Symptoms and detection of a chronic renal failure
One of the main problems for the diagnosis of chronic renal failure is that it does not usually present clear symptoms. In fact, most of those affected do not notice any change until the disease is well advanced.
Some of the signs that may appear are: fatigue and lack of energy, problems concentrating, lack of appetite, problems sleeping, cramps (mainly at night), swollen feet and ankles, dry skin and itching , inflamed eyelids, especially in the morning, darkening of the skin and the need to urinate more frequently, especially at night.
When there are signs, it is necessary to do blood and urine tests to diagnose the disease. These tests are used to determine if the kidney is properly excreting the waste and to determine the amount of protein lost in the urine.
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Causes and origin
There are several diseases that can cause kidney injuries. The most common causes are:
- High blood sugar levels cause direct damage to the small blood vessels of the kidney. If diabetes is not controlled or sugar spikes occur frequently, it can lead to loss of kidney function.
- High blood pressure can also damage the small blood vessels of the kidney, preventing them from filtering the waste properly.
- Autoimmune diseases. These pathologies are characterized by an indiscriminate attack of the immune system on the cells of the body itself. Therefore, it can cause damage to many organs and systems, such as the kidney.
- Glomerulonephritis. This name encompasses different pathologies that cause inflammation and damage to the kidney tissue whose function is to filter the blood.
- Hereditary diseases
The treatment seeks to compensate for the abnormal function of the kidney by dialysis, and the administration of hormones that may be deficient.
Dialysis is the artificial filtering of blood. That is, through a controlled medical process, toxins and excess fluid are eliminated. There are different methods and it is necessary to do it several times a week. The process can last between two and eight hours, so it affects the day to day of the patients a lot.
When kidney failure is very serious, a kidney transplant is necessary. If done successfully, people who have received the new organ usually recover normalcy in their lives.
Prevention of kidney failure
Although many times it cannot be predicted, it can be prevented. Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure, drinking enough water and restricting the amount of salt can help avoid problems. In addition, in the case that it is already in treatment, it is very important to follow it rigorously. Follow the doctor’s recommendations and avoid routines and potentially toxic products for our organs, such as drugs and alcohol.