Guide To The Types Of Kidney Disease

Most healthy individuals have two kidneys, one on either side of the lower spine. These organs are the blood's filtration system. They manufacture urine to remove waste products and excess water from the body. Individuals with kidney problems can experience dizziness, fatigue, weakness, feeling cold, and shortness of breath. Patients may notice swelling of the face, hands, or feet, and the skin may become very itchy. Their urine may change to pink or red. Patients could experience more frequent nighttime urination or a sensation of pain or pressure during urination. 

There are many options available for kidney disease treatment. For instance, patients can take medicine to break up kidney stones or kidney infection medication. Some individuals may want to try natural treatment for kidney disease. Of course, dialysis for kidney conditions is a common treatment.  The best kidney treatment, however, depends on the specific condition. Learn about the various kidney conditions now.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is a gradual loss of normal kidney function. Individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease are at an increased risk of this condition. The presence of other kidney conditions such as glomerulonephritis or polycystic kidney disease can also increase the risk of chronic kidney disease. Patients in the earliest stages of this condition may not have any symptoms at all. As the condition progresses, patients may notice a loss of appetite, skin itching, muscle twitches, sleep disturbances, and declines in mental sharpness. Nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and fatigue may be present. Patients who have hypertension may find that it becomes more difficult to control.

Patients with diabetes and other conditions that increase the likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease will typically have their kidney function monitored with urine and blood tests at their regular checkups. If chronic kidney disease is suspected, doctors may perform an ultrasound of the kidneys to check their size and structure. Many cases of chronic kidney disease are not curable, and treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the condition. Doctors usually prescribe medication to control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and protect the bones. Some patients may be advised to restrict their dietary protein intake to minimize the amount of waste that the kidneys must filter. In the most advanced stages of chronic kidney disease, patients will need to begin dialysis and a kidney transplant may be recommended.

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Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic condition that causes clusters of cysts to form on the kidneys. As the cysts grow, they can reduce kidney function. This may eventually result in kidney failure. Patients could have polycystic kidney disease for many years without realizing it. When symptoms do appear, they can include headaches, pain in the back or side, hypertension, blood in the urine, and an increase in abdominal size. Patients may also have kidney infections or kidney stones, and urinary tract infections may occur.

Ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRI scans are the primary methods used to diagnose this condition. Patients are normally treated with medication to reduce blood pressure. Prescription pain relievers may be prescribed for those in severe pain. Surgery can sometimes be used to remove huge cysts that are causing pain. Patients who have blood in their urine due to this disease will be advised to drink plenty of water to dilute their urine.

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Diabetic Nephropathy

Diabetic nephropathy is a gradual loss of kidney function that can develop as a complication of type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Roughly twenty-five percent of diabetes patients will eventually develop this condition. Risk factors for diabetic nephropathy include poor control of blood glucose or cholesterol, hypertension, and tobacco use. Doctors will perform urine tests to check for high protein levels as part of the diagnostic process for this condition. Blood tests will also be needed to provide more information about kidney function. Computerized tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging help doctors assess blood flow within the kidneys. Patients may also need to have ultrasounds, renal analysis testing, or a kidney biopsy.

The most important steps in the treatment of diabetic nephropathy are to control blood glucose and hypertension. Prescription medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors may be necessary to reduce blood pressure. Patients may be asked to take statins to reduce cholesterol. These medications also reduce protein in the urine. In the advanced stages of diabetic nephropathy, patients will normally need to begin dialysis. Kidney transplants or kidney-pancreas transplants may be considered in certain cases.

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Glomerulonephritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the glomeruli, small structures made of blood vessels. These structures are responsible for the proper filtration of the blood and the removal of excess fluids. Patients with acute glomerulonephritis could experience coughing due to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. They may also notice they are urinating less than usual. Urinary output may appear rusty due to the presence of blood. Individuals with chronic glomerulonephritis typically urinate more frequently than usual during the overnight hours. Their urine may appear foamy or bubbly as a result of excess protein. Abdominal pain, swelling of the face and ankles, and frequent nosebleeds could develop as well.

Doctors generally rely on blood and urine tests, ultrasounds, and computerized tomography scans to diagnose glomerulonephritis. Some patients may need to have immunology testing, chest x-rays, or an intravenous pyelogram, and a kidney biopsy could be necessary to confirm the presence of this condition. If an autoimmune condition causes a patient's glomerulonephritis, corticosteroids or plasmapheresis may be used as treatment options. Individuals with chronic glomerulonephritis are often prescribed diuretics to reduce swelling. Dietary changes to reduce protein, salt, and potassium will be recommended. These patients need to monitor their fluid intake carefully too.

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Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard deposits made up of minerals and salts. The stones can form inside the kidneys due to dehydration, kidney infections, and changes in diet or hormone levels. Patients with kidney stones often experience severe pain in the back and side of their abdomen. They may also have blood or pus in their urine. Some individuals could develop a fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting, and urinary output may be reduced. Conditions such as diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and hyperparathyroid conditions are associated with an increased risk of kidney stones. Patients who have had a gastric bypass operation also have an elevated risk.

Kidney stones can be detected with ultrasounds. Doctors may also perform computerized tomography scans, blood and urine tests, and an intravenous or retrograde pyelogram. If kidney stones are discovered, they may need to be treated in the hospital. A lithotripsy procedure can be performed to break up large stones. Doctors may choose to surgically remove them using percutaneous nephrolithotomy. This operation is used if a kidney stone is causing an obstruction and is also appropriate when kidney stones are causing unmanageable pain.

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Kidney Cysts

Another condition that affects the kidney is kidney cysts. These are round fluid pouches that form in or on the patient's kidneys. In some instances, kidney cysts may be the result of serious conditions that impair the function of an individual's kidneys. However, kidney cysts are often simple kidney cysts, which do not have a clear cause. This means they are noncancerous and rarely trigger significant complications. 

In most cases, patients only have one kidney cyst on the surface of a kidney. However, they can have multiple cysts, which can affect one or both of their kidneys. Of course, it is worth noting that simple kidney cysts are not the same type that form due to polycystic kidney disease. The majority of simple kidney cysts do not cause symptoms. However, if they grow large enough, they can trigger upper abdominal pain, fever, and dull back or side pain. Treatment may not be required, but options include draining the cyst and filling it with alcohol, as well as surgically removing the cyst.

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Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer, of course, is a type of cancer that forms in an individual's kidneys. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form found in adults. However, there are less common types of kidney cancer, such as urothelial carcinoma and kidney sarcoma. Children often experience a type of kidney cancer known as Wilms'; tumor. The good news is that kidney cancer is often caught early. Experts believe that this may be due to computerized tomography scans occurring more often, resulting in kidney cancer being discovered accidentally. 

Symptoms of kidney cancer include fever, unexplained weight loss, blood in urine, appetite loss, back or side pain, and tiredness. The causes of kidney cancer are not clear, but risk factors include smoking, older age, high blood pressure, kidney failure treatment, and a family history of kidney cancer. Treatment for kidney cancer includes the surgical removal of the affected kidney, removing the tumor from the kidney, immunotherapy, and cryoablation.

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Pyelonephritis is a severe kidney infection. Acute cases happen suddenly, cause the kidneys to swell, and often result in permanent kidney damage. Unfortunately, pyelonephritis is often life-threatening. Repeated or persistent cases are considered chronic pyelonephritis, though they are rare. However, chronic cases are more common in individuals with urinary obstructions. Children are also at a higher risk of the chronic form. Risk factors for acute pyelonephritis include kidney stones, the presence of other kidney conditions, an enlarged prostate, use of catheters, certain medications, and urinary tract surgery. 

Symptoms of this condition include fever, back pain, side pain, abdominal pain, cloudy urine, blood in urine, painful urination, frequent urination, and a foul odor to urine. Patients often receive antibiotics for this condition. However, hospitalization may be necessary, and surgery is often recommended for repeated infections. Surgery may include removing part of the kidney, removing obstructions, correcting a structural issue, or draining an abscess.

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Kidney Failure

As mentioned, the kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and toxins from the blood, which individuals then excrete through urine. They are vital organs in the body. However, when they stop functioning well on their own, individuals are considered to have kidney failure. This means that one or both kidneys are not working. Some cases of kidney failure are sudden and temporary, but there are also chronic cases that worsen slowly over time. There are many risk factors and causes of kidney failure, including heart disease, kidney stones, glomerulonephritis, kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes, and certain medications. Patients with kidney failure often need to follow a low-sodium and low-potassium diet and receive dialysis. Eventually, some patients will need a kidney transplant.

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Renal Tubular Acidosis

Another condition that affects the kidneys is renal tubular acidosis. This disease happens when an individual's kidneys do not excrete acids into their urine. When this occurs, the acid will build up in the individual's blood, which means that it will stay too acidic. This kidney disease may lead to issues such as dehydration, calcium deposits in the kidneys, kidney stones, high or low blood potassium, and osteomalacia. 

Symptoms of renal tubular acidosis often do not appear for an extended period. When they do, they vary based on the type and effects of the condition. Examples include muscle weakness and paralysis due to low potassium, as well as kidney stones and chronic kidney disease in type 1 renal tubular acidosis. In type 2, patients often experience osteomalacia, which carries bone pain and leg weakness as symptoms. Treatment depends on the type of renal tubular acidosis. They include potassium supplements, sodium bicarbonate solutions, and diuretics.