When illness or injury affects the kidneys, it can often result in renal or kidney disease. The kidneys have several functions that include filtering toxins out of the body and directing excess fluid toward the bladder so it can be released.
Kidney disease prevents the kidneys from doing their usual job, resulting in a buildup of toxins throughout the body. This can quickly lead to other serious health issues. Treatment differs from person to person, but at times dialysis is needed.
Everyone’s risk of developing kidney disease is different. It can be caused by intense illness, uncontrolled chronic health problems, or certain medical treatments. It can also be congenital or due to a family history of renal or kidney disease. Below is a partial list of factors contributing to the development of kidney disease.
- A medical emergency that requires time in intensive care
- Peripheral artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Some cancers and related treatments
Talk to your doctor about your own risk factors and ways to support your kidney health.
Steps to take
Keeping health conditions well-managed is the first step to protecting your kidneys. Stay up-to-date with your doctor’s appointments and any lab rests that are required, take medications as prescribed, and pay attention to any changes in how you’re feeling. A basic blood test can monitor your kidney health and is helpful in evaluation and management of any issues that develop.
Staying hydrated is also important. It is recommended for most people to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day. This can include water as well as drinks like tea and coffee. The recommended amount sometimes differs in people with more severe kidney disease, so talk to your doctor if you are unsure how much you should drink.
A way to see if you’re drinking enough is to look at the color of your urine. Light yellow is an appropriate color. Dark or intense yellow is a sign of dehydration, while clear urine indicates that you might be overhydrating. Everyone’s hydration needs are different. Talking to your doctor about how to properly hydrate is always an option.
Lifestyle choices also play an important role. Avoid smoking and drinking in excess. A diverse diet that limits processed foods can also make a big difference. The goal is to reduce the number of toxins your kidneys are responsible for filtering out.
If you believe you’re at risk of developing kidney disease, there are some symptoms that you can look out for.
- Urinating fewer times a day or in smaller amounts
- Swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in weight
If any of these symptoms occur — particularly chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, seizures, or an irregular heartbeat — please seek in-person care immediately or call 911. All of these symptoms require medical attention, but are not confirmation that you have kidney disease. Reach out to your doctor with any concerns regarding your health.
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