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Chronic Kidney Disease also called Chronic Kidney Failure occurs when the kidneys stop functioning slowly i.e. gradual loss of function. It is usually occurs when a condition or disease impairs the functioning of the kidneys, leading to gradual destruction of the kidneys over a period of time, usually several months or years. Several diseases and conditions can lead to kidney damage and if not treated or addressed over several months they may result in CKD. According to Mayo Clinic, these diseases include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Type I & II Diabetes Mellitus
- Inflammation of the kidney filtering units called Glomerulonephritis
- Inflammation of the kidney tubules and surrounding structures – Interstitial Nephritis
- Conditions like cancers, enlarged prostates (in men) and kidney stones that lead to protracted obstruction of the urinary tract
- Vesicourethral reflux – back flow of urine into the kidneys
- Polycystic Kidney Disease (congenital)
- Pyelonephritis – recurrent infection of the kidneys
There are also several risk factors that may lead to increased risk of kidney disease in individuals, such factors include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes Mellitus
- HIV infection
- Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) diseases
- Family history of kidney disease
- Abnormal kidney structure (genetic disorders)
- Older age
Chronic kidney disease can affect virtually almost every part of the body with serious and life threatening complications some of which may include:
- Fluid retention – with swelling in the arms and legs, fluid in the lungs (Pulmonary Edema) and high blood pressure.
- Hyperkalemia – sudden rise in the level of potassium, may be life threatening as it may affect the functioning of the heart
- Weak bones with increased risk of bone fractures
- Cardiovascular diseases (heart and blood vessels)
- Decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction and reduced fertility
- Damage to the Central Nervous System (CNS), which may lead to seizures, concentration difficulties and personality changes
- Depressed immunity and predisposition to infection
- Pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart)
- End stage kidney disease i.e. irreversible damage requiring dialysis or kidney transplant
- Pregnancy complications with risks for the mother and fetus
According to experts, certain steps can be taken to reduce the risk of kidney disease and they include:
- Early presentation in hospitals by patients with any sign of kidney malfunction – Mismanagement by unqualified and alternate medical practitioners and late presentation with end stage renal disease that requires dialysis and kidney transplant is one of the greatest challenge our environment.
- Patients with Hypertension and Diabetes Mellitus (DM) should make sure their kidney functions are evaluated and monitored regularly.
- Patients should endeavor to follow instructions on non-prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications – Some drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen (mainly pain relievers) etc. can be obtained without a prescription from qualified healthcare workers like medical doctors. Taking too many of these drugs can damage the kidney. Hence, they should be avoided in the presence of any form of kidney disease or simply ask a doctor if they are safe.
- Maintain a healthy weight i.e. avoid obesity – Those with a healthy weight should maintain it and those overweight should work towards losing the excess weight through diets, increased daily activity, exercise etc.
- Quit Smoking – Smoking cigarettes can damage kidneys or worsen existing kidney disease
- Manage all Medical Conditions with the help of a doctor – All disease conditions that can increase risk of kidney damage should be managed with the help of a qualified medical practitioner.
Dr Timothy Akinmurele contributed this article.
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