March is National Kidney Month and almost 30 million people in the United States are living with chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is when the kidneys have lasting damage that can get worse over time. The kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from the blood, which are then excreted in the urine. When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes can build up in your body.
If the extent of damage continues, the kidneys may stop working and go into failure. Once the kidneys go into failure, dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary.
What causes chronic kidney disease?
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease
- Having a family member with kidney disease
- Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian
- Being over 60 years old
What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease usually gets worse slowly, and symptoms may not appear until they are badly damaged. Furthermore, the kidneys are able to compensate for lost function, which is another reason why signs and symptoms may not appear until irreversible damage has occurred.
Symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sleep problems
- Changes in how much you urinate
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Persistent itching
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
- High blood pressure
The following symptoms are common in kidney failure:
- Abdominal (belly) pain
- Back pain
How to prevent chronic kidney disease:
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, working with your doctor to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure under control is the best way to prevent kidney disease.