Your kidneys are just as vital as your heart and lungs. These organs are located on either side of your spine, at the small of your back, and about the size of your fist. The kidneys filter waste from the blood and flush it out in the urine. They also balance the body's water and salt levels, and produce and secrete hormones.
The term chronic kidney failure is used to describe a gradual decline in kidney function. This usually happens as a result of damage to the kidney cells. The disease develops over a long period.
The symptoms of kidney failure are highly variable. Most patients don't develop symptoms until they reach a more advanced stage of the disease. Symptoms may include the following:
- Nausea or vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Swelling around the eyes, hands, or feet
- Blood in the urine or difficulty urinating
Causes and triggers
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes. Other possible causes include kidney disease, kidney stones, and problems related to the use of drugs and medicines.
Old age, a family history of kidney disease, being overweight, and smoking are all risk factors.
Chronic kidney failure requires close monitoring by a team of health care professionals. Blood and urine tests are used to track the progression of the disease and prevent certain complications.
Treatment begins with identifying and treating the cause (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.), as well as any complications. The following lifestyle changes are also an important part of treatment:
- Reduce your salt consumption.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- If you have hypertension, control your blood pressure.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood glucose levels.
- Weigh yourself frequently to monitor your weight and check for swelling.
- Exercise every day according to your fitness level.
- Stop smoking.
If your kidneys are severely damaged, you may be put on dialysis. This long-term therapy removes waste and excess water from the body. There are two types of dialysis. Hemodialysis is done in 4-hour sessions, three times a week, in a hospital. The treatment is done through the veins. Peritoneal dialysis is performed at home each day through a tube in the abdomen. Kidney transplant is another treatment option. Speak to a kidney specialist to determine whether to opt for dialysis or a kidney transplant.
When should I see a health care professional?
Consult a health care professional if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden weight gain or loss of 2-3 kg (5 lb.) in one week
- Increased swelling around the eyes, hands, or feet
- New shortness of breath
- Diarrhea or vomiting for more than 24 hours
- Significant change in your blood pressure
If you suffer from kidney failure, make sure to inform your health care providers so that they can advise you properly and adjust your medications as needed. Ask your pharmacist if a product is safe to use before you buy it, even if it's an over-the-counter medication, vitamin, or natural health product.