With the rising trend of kidney failures in most parts of the country today, there is a need to learn more about keeping this vital organ healthy to avoid the being at risk of having a kidney failure.
The kidneys are twin, fist-size organs located at the bottom of the rib cage on either side of the spine. They perform several functions, the most important of which is filtering waste products, excess water, and other impurities out of the blood. These waste products are stored in the bladder and later expelled from the body as urine.
In addition, the kidneys regulate pH (acidity of urine), salt, and potassium levels in the body, and they produce hormones that regulate blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells. The kidneys are also responsible for activating a form of vitamin D that helps the body absorb calcium to build bones and modulate muscle function.
When the kidneys no longer effectively remove waste from the blood, this can lead to kidney failure. Waste builds up in the body, causing serious problems including death, until the blood is filtered artificially through dialysis or a new kidney is transplanted into the body.
Types of Kidney Disease
• Chronic Kidney Disease
The most common form of kidney disease is chronic kidney disease, caused by high blood pressure. Because the kidneys are constantly processing the body’s blood supply, they are exposed to about 20 per cent of the total blood volume of the body every minute.
High blood pressure is dangerous for the kidneys because it can lead to increased pressure on the glomeruli, which are the functional units of the kidney. In time, this high pressure compromises the filtering apparatus of the kidney, and kidney function begins to decline.
Eventually, kidney function will deteriorate to the point where the kidney can no longer properly perform its job, and a person will be required to go on dialysis. Dialysis filters fluid and wastes out of the blood, but it is not a long-term solution when the kidneys stop functioning. Eventually, kidney transplant may be an appropriate next move, but each circumstance will be different.
Diabetes is also a major cause of chronic kidney disease. Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar will damage the functional units of the kidney, leading to kidney failure.
• Kidney Stones
One other common kidney problem is kidney stones. Minerals and other substances in the blood crystallize in the kidneys, forming solid particles (stones) that usually pass out of the body with urine. Passing kidney stones can be extremely painful but rarely causes significant problems.
Glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the glomeruli, microscopic structures inside the kidneys that perform the actual filtration of the blood. Glomerulonephritis can be caused by infections, drugs, congenital abnormalities, and autoimmune disease. This condition often gets better on its own or is responsive to immunosuppressive medications.
• Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disorder that causes many cysts round sacs of fluid to grow inside and on the surfaces of the kidneys. These cysts can interfere with kidney function. (Individual kidney cysts are common and usually harmless; polycystic kidney disease is a separate, more serious condition.)
• Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections of any of the components of the urinary system. Infections in the bladder and urethra are most common. They are easily treatable and cause few long-term effects. However, if left untreated, these infections could spread to the kidneys and lead to kidney failure. A kidney infection is also known as pyelonephritis.
According to research, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) occurs most often in adults.
Although, the cause is not known, what is known, however, are risk factors that could increase the chance of developing kidney cancer.
The Mayo Clinic reports that while the exact cause of RCC is unknown, medical experts do know the risk factors for kidney cancer.
• Age: People have a greater chance of developing renal cell carcinoma as they get older.
• Gender: According to research, males have double the chance of having RCC compared to females.
• The Genetic Connection. Genetics can play a role in your chances of developing renal cell carcinoma. A few rare conditions that can be inherited put you at higher risk for developing RCC.
Another inherited condition that predisposes you to RCC is called hereditary papillary RCC. This disorder is linked to changes in certain genes.
According to experts, if there no inherited conditions that have been shown to cause RCC, family history may be a risk factor for the disease.
Studies show that if someone in your family is known to have had RCC, then your chances for developing kidney cancer could be up to four times greater. This risk has been proven to be particularly strong if your sibling has the condition.
While you cannot control your age, gender, or genes, you can control other risk factors for RCC. Some risk factors are related to your lifestyle habits.
According to the Mayo Clinic, smokers have a greater chance of having kidney cancer than those who don’t smoke.
If you quit smoking, your risk of developing the condition can be greatly reduced.
Reports states that being extremely overweight may account for around 20 per cent of renal cell carcinoma cases.
The reason that obesity may cause the disease is that it can lead to abnormal hormone changes. These changes ultimately put obese people at higher risk for RCC than those of normal weight.
• High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is also a risk factor for kidney cancer. When you have high blood pressure, you have a greater chance of developing RCC, according to research.
Having one or more risk factors for kidney disease may increase your chances of having the condition, it does not mean that you will automatically develop renal cell carcinoma.
However, it is always good to make lifestyle changes that help decrease your risk. Quitting smoking, watching your weight, and managing your blood pressure are all-around healthy choices that could help protect your kidneys.
Also, if you have a hereditary risk factor for RCC, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may want to perform tests to help rule out or confirm a diagnosis.
Take small steps today for a greater reward tomorrow.