Kidney disease affects 1.7 million people in Australia, but 1.5 million people are not even aware they have it. Kidney Health Week is celebrated from 25 – 31 May and aims to raise awareness about kidney disease and encouraging the public to visit their GP and get a Kidney Health Check.
Chronic kidney disease is characterized by progressive damage and loss of function in the kidneys. Most people don’t even know that they have it. The most common form of kidney disease is chronic kidney disease. A major cause of this, much like many other diseases, is high blood pressure. High blood pressure is dangerous for your kidneys because it can lead to increased pressure on the glomeruli, the functional units of your kidney. In time, this high pressure compromises the filtering apparatus of your kidneys and their functioning declines. Eventually, kidney function will deteriorate to the point where they can no longer properly perform their job, and you’ll have to go on dialysis.
Kidneys play many important roles in keeping our bodies in balance. They remove waste, toxins and excess water from the blood stream which is carried out the body in urine. They also produce hormones that regulate blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells.
Your risk of contracting kidney disease is higher if you have a family history of genetic diseases, or autoimmune diseases, and your risk continues to increase the older you get. Defects in the structure can also cause your kidneys to fail.
Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney disease, both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Heart disease and obesity can also contribute to the damage that causes kidneys to fail. Urinary tract issues and inflammation in different parts of the kidney can also lead to long-term functional decline.
Some of these hereditary factors may be out of your control, but there are other ways to reduce your risk. Heavy or long-term use of certain medication, smoking/ vaping and drinking are all contributing factors that can lead to kidney disease.
Many people experience a few signs or symptoms in the early stages of chronic kidney disease, but don’t realize that they have kidney disease until the condition is advanced. Regular doctors’ appointments are vital, specifically for people who have underlying medical conditions, for early detection, and which might help prevent kidney disease from progressing to kidney failure.
Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease are not always very clear and develop over time if kidney damage progresses slowly. Depending on how severe it is, loss of kidney function can cause: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness, sleep problems, changes in urine frequency, decreased mental sharpness, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, muscle cramps, swelling of feet and ankles, and dry/ itchy skin.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are good for more than just losing weight and staying fit. Exercise reduces blood pressure and boosts heart health, which are both important to preventing kidney damage.
Taking over-the-counter pain medication can damage your kidneys if you take them regularly or in large quantities for chronic pain, headaches, or arthritis. People with no kidney issues who take the medicine occasionally are likely in the clear. However, if you use these medicines daily, you could be risking your kidneys’ health.
Drink enough water! Water helps get important nutrients to your kidneys and move waste to your bladder in the form of urine. If you don’t drink enough, the tiny filters inside your kidneys can get stopped up and lead to kidney stones and infections.
Be vigilant with alcohol and smoking. If you’re healthy, a drink or two isn’t likely to damage your kidneys. But binge drinking can cause sudden, serious damage and possibly lead to long-term problems. Smoking raises your risk of kidney cancer and damages blood vessels, which affects your kidneys by slowing blood flow to them. Quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake is the healthiest change you can make to reducing your risk of kidney disease, cancer and other health-related issues.
Maintaining kidney health is important to your overall health and general well-being and helps your body function properly. This week for Kidney Health Week, encourage open conversations about kidney disease, raise awareness of the health effects an promote regular check-ups among your family and loved ones.