The kidneys are bean-shaped organs roughly the size of a fist. Most healthy individuals have two kidneys, one on either side of the lower spine. These organs are the blood’s filtration system, and they manufacture urine to remove waste products and excess water from the body. Together with the bladder and ureters, the kidneys form part of the urinary tract. Kidney diseases can be caused by a variety of factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and overuse of certain medicines.
Patients with kidney disease often feel fatigued, and they tend to feel cold in warm environments. Some individuals with kidney problems could experience dizziness or weakness, and shortness of breath is common. Patients might notice swelling of the face, hands, or feet, and the skin may become very itchy. The urine might change to pink or red, and patients could experience more frequent nighttime urination or a sensation of pain or pressure during urination. Certain types of kidney diseases can cause changes in taste; for example, some patients have reported food having a metallic taste. Kidney disease can be diagnosed using blood and urine tests, and imaging studies or kidney biopsies may be needed. Depending on the specific kidney issue, treatment options could include medication, dialysis, or a kidney transplant.
Some of the most common forms of kidney disease are discussed below.
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, and 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 might 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, and patients who have hypertension could find 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 must be filtered by the kidneys. 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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