Posted on June 22, 2022 · Posted in Blog, General, Memo Plus Gold, Personal

What is chronic kidney disease?

Kidney disease (also called renal disease) is a general term for when the kidneys are damaged and do not function as they should. If you have kidney disease that lasts for more than 3 months, it is called chronic kidney disease (CKD).

When the kidneys do not work properly, wastes and fluids build up inside the body. Chronic kidney disease can lead to other problems like heart disease and high blood pressure and eventually complete kidney failure, so getting treatment early is vital.

What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

Kidney disease is sometimes called a ‘silent disease’ because there may be no warning signs. In the early stages, you will probably not have any symptoms.

As kidney disease progresses, you may start feeling unwell. Symptoms of the middle and late stages include:

  • high blood pressure.
  • changes in the amount and number of times you pass urine, such as waking up in the night to urinate.
  • changes in how the urine looks (such as frothy or foaming urine).
  • blood in the urine.
  • puffiness in the legs, ankles or around the eyes.
  • pain in the kidney area.
  • tiredness, lethargy.
  • loss of appetite.
  • headaches.
  • poor concentration.
  • itching.
  • shortness of breath.
  • nausea and vomiting.
  • bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth.
  • muscle cramps.
  • pins and needles in the fingers or toes.
  • restless legs.
  • generally feeling unwell.

What causes chronic kidney disease?

The most common cause of chronic kidney disease is diabetes. This is because high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, stopping them from filtering wastes properly. About 4 in 10 cases of chronic kidney disease are caused by diabetes. Chronic kidney disease caused by diabetes is also called diabetic nephropathy.

High blood pressure can also lead to kidney disease. So can glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys that can either be inherited or follows an infection.

Other things that contribute to people getting chronic kidney disease are:

  • having heart failure, or having had a heart attack or stroke.
  • having kidney disease in the family.
  • being overweight or obese.
  • smoking or having ever smoked.
  • being over 60 years.
  • a kidney injury, infection or cyst in the past.

The kidneys can also be damaged by misuse of some painkillers, prescription medicines and illegal drugs.

What lifestyle changes can you make?

Chronic kidney disease will gradually get worse but there is plenty you can do to slow the progression and improve your quality of life. Changes you should make include:

  • stop smoking.
  • eat a healthy diet. That means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans and low-fat dairy products. Make sure you limit salt to less than 6g a day and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats. In the later stages of chronic kidney disease, you may need to follow specific instructions from your doctor on what you can eat or drink.
  • maintaining a healthy weight. If you have chronic kidney disease, you should ideally have a BMI of 25 or less.
  • limit alcohol to less than 2 standard drinks a day.
  • be physically active on most, preferably all, days of the week. Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, and make sure you do some muscle strengthening exercises.
  • take medicines to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or other underlying conditions.

If you are being treated for chronic kidney disease, your doctors may need to change other medicines you are on, since many medicines can affect the kidneys, such as blood pressure drugs and anti-inflammatories. Some medicines which leave the body through the kidneys may need to have their dose adjusted.

Can chronic kidney disease be prevented?

There is plenty you can do to help keep your kidneys healthy and help prevent kidney disease.

  • watch your weight – being overweight increases your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of kidney disease.
  • eat healthily – a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt, sugar and fats is best.
  • drink plenty of water – avoid sugary drinks (such as soft drinks).
  • exercise regularly.
  • do not smoke.
  • limit your alcohol intake to less than 2 standard drinks a day.
  • find ways to help you relax and reduce stress.
  • be aware of your risk factors – if you know you are at risk of kidney disease, you can have your kidneys checked regularly.

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