The Kidney is one of the most important organs in the human body. Its primary function is the removal of waste & toxins from the blood stream. So if the kidney stopped working correctly and is no longer able to properly function that would lead to serious problems. Blood is no longer being cleaned. The waste and the toxins aren’t being removed. Instead it’s all building up in the blood stream causing serious damage and problems like anemia, hypertension, weak bones, nerve damage and possibly death.

This is what happens to people who suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease aka CKD. Chronic Kidney Disease disorders are among the top ten leading causes of death in the United States. From 2010-2011 it was estimated that almost 50,000 people died form some form of severe kidney disease or kidney failure. There are almost 4 million people diagnosed with CKD in the U. S. totaling almost 2% of the entire population.

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Chronic Kidney Disease is not a disease that can be cured with the exception of a kidney transplant, but rather one that can be treated; and a quality of life can be sustained if the afflicted person makes the necessary commitments and life style changes. If not then kidney disease can turn into full blown kidney failure. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has two main causes; high blood pressure and diabetes. High blood pressure can lead to and also be a warning sign for kidney disease.

People who suffer from diabetes are likely to have complications in areas and organs of the body, the kidney usually being one. Other possible causes for CKD include: family – some forms of the disease such as Polycystic Kidney Disease is inherited, glomerulonephritis – an inflammation of the kidney’s filtering unit, lupus & other auto-immune diseases, malformations that occur within the womb or to the fetus during gestation can cause an infection which may cause kidney disease, also obstructions within or surrounding the kidney such as kidney stones, tumors or enlarged prostates, may lead to kidney disease.

Repeated urinary infection may cause kidney disease, but they can also be a warning sign for kidney disease. Some of the risk factors to developing CKD are an unhealthy nutritional diet, lack of exercise and poor well being. Also people who belong to certain ethnic groups like African American, Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander are at higher risk to developing kidney disease. Chronic Kidney Disease is not a disease that has obvious or severe symptoms right from the beginning.

In actuality there aren’t any severe symptoms until kidney disease has advanced into the higher stage levels. Minor signs and symptoms that can be noticed are; tired / less energy, trouble concentrating, no appetite, insomnia, muscle cramps at night, swollen feet and ankles, puffy eyes, itchy dry skin & excessive urination (especially at night). If kidney disease worsens conditions that will develop are hypertension and ultimately kidney failure. Testing for CKD consists of three preliminary screenings. There’s a blood pressure test.

There’s a urinalysis. The urinalysis is looking for the presence of protein, glucose, bilirubin, bacteria and red & white blood cells in the urine. A urinalysis is essential for early detection. There’s also a blood test for serum creatinine (a waste produced during muscle metabolism found in the blood stream) the levels of this waste found in the blood stream can help determine the kidney’s functionality. The levels of waste found in the blood combined with the patient’s body mass, sex and age create a GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate).

Ultrasounds and CT scans are also used to check for abnormalities with the kidney’s size, shape, location and or residual urine. For further diagnostic testing a kidney biopsy maybe performed in order to examine the kidney’s cellular status under a microscope. The biopsy can help to determine the damage level, identify a specific disease or even explain why a transplant isn’t taking. Once testing has been completed diagnosis of kidney disease will place one into 1 of the 5 stages of kidney disease. Stage I – some kidney damage but

GFR (glomerular filtration rate) is with normal range (more then 90); Stage II – kidney damage with a mild decrease in GFR (60-89); Stage III – kidney damage and a moderate decrease in GFR (30-59); Stage IV – kidney damage and a sever decrease in GFR (15-29), it’s in this stage that a doctor and their patient would discuss treatment options for possible kidney failure & Stage V – kidney damage and GFR extremely severely low ( 15 or less), in this stage the kidney is no longer able to maintain body’s health and immediate medical treatment is needed.

Treatment for kidney disease really depends on what stage the disease is in. There is a big difference in the treatment of a patient who is in stage 1 or 2 from a patient who is in stage 4 or 5. In the beginning stages of kidney disease things like diet and fluid management can help to moderate and assist with the removal of waste like water and salt. Customized meals are highly recommended and successful since CKD varies from person to person. Along with diet is exercise; exercise will help with the management and prevention of kidney disease. It increases one’s strength, stamina and energy.

It lowers blood pressure (which can cause kidney disease), helps with sleep, controls body weight and improves over all wellness. Also included are medications to offset some of the conditions the kidney disease might be causing like anemia and hypertension. In the more severe stages of kidney disease or even kidney failure more intense treatments are needed. Between stages 4 &5 treatment will consist of one of the following: dialysis, kidney transplant or nothing. Dialysis is a medical procedure that can be done in the privacy of one’s own home or in a dialysis clinic.

There are two types of dialysis, Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis. Hemodialysis is the method that most think of when dialysis is mentioned. The blood is pumped out of the body, cleaned and re-deposited using sterile tubing & needles and a machine called an “artificial kidney”. An access point into the blood stream is required for hemodialysis and it is achieved one of three ways; a fistula (connecting a vein to and artery), a graft (connection of a vein to an artery using synthetic material) or a catheter which is usually connected to a vein in the upper chest or arm.

One hemodialysis session can take as long as 3-4 hours and needs to be repeated 3x a week. Peritoneal dialysis is the other method that can be used. In this method the patient’s own peritoneum (a thin membrane that stretches around the organs of the abdominal cavity) is used as a filter for the waste instead of the artificial kidney. In this procedure a catheter is placed in the lower abdomen and a solution called dialyste flows through the catheter into the abdominal cavity.

The peritoneum acts a filter between the blood vessels and the dialyste solution. Water and salt flow out of the blood stream pass through the peritoneum and into the dialyste solution. After allotted time waste and the used fluid are drained from the abdomen and a new solution is pumped in, this process is known as the exchange. When this procedure is prescribed it is detailed by the physician with a dwell time (length of time between exchanges), the type and amount of the solution needed and the number exchanges required per day.

Both Peritoneal and Hemodialysis are over all generally safe procedures. Neither will cure kidney disease or failure but they can help sustain one’s quality of life. The second treatment option for sever CKD or kidney failure would be a complete kidney transplant. This is done by the removal of a functioning kidney from a donor and the placement of that kidney into a person whose own kidney is not functioning. Successful transplants eliminate the need for dialysis hence making the person a survivor of kidney disease.

Transplants come form donors and donors can be one of three sources; living relative (immediate family), living non related matching individual or a cadaver donor. There is a possibility of rejection with a transplant by the receiver’s body or immune system, there fore as a preventative measure anti rejection and immune suppressant medications are given and patients continue to get monitored long after surgery. Transplants are usually successful, the biggest hurdle is the limited number of donated organs.

Lastly there are those people that will do absolutely nothing. Whether it’s spiritual beliefs or just accepting what life throws your way, they choose to let be what will be. This option is not one that comes highly recommended. Chronic Kidney Disease is somewhat of a silent epidemic here in America with over 4 million diagnosed cases and it ranking number 9 on list of causes of death. It is a serious disease that can be controlled and maintained if diagnosed early enough.

Healthy nutrition and lifestyle can help prevent kidney disease but they can also sustain your well being if you become diagnosed with kidney disease. It is important for people to stay on top of their health, to be proactive with their body’s care and maintenance. Kidney disease can be caused by many things but it can also cause many things to happen to the body in response to it; so take care because to a certain extent kidney disease is preventable.