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Kidney Disease - Are You at Risk?

One in 10 American adults, more than 20 million adults nationwide, have some level of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). Of that startling number, many of those patients were unaware that they even had any form of kidney disease. Kidney disease has long been known as the "silent killer" and more likely than not, patients do not experience any symptoms until 80% or more of their kidney function is lost.

Why is Kidney disease on the rise? The most common reason for developing kidney disease in the USA is diabetes, also on the rise. The high blood sugar levels can damage the tiny filters in the kidneys and cause scarring and leaking of protein into urine. Hypertension is another common disease leading to kidney disease as the elevated blood pressures can also cause scarring of the filters inside the kidneys as well. In addition to the common reasons for kidney disease (diabetes and hypertension), there are also numerous less common types of illnesses that may be a catalyst in kidney disease such as autoimmune diseases. In these diseases, the body abnormally starts producing antibodies directed against specific parts of the kidney thereby damaging them. In addition to the effects of kidney disease itself, most people with kidney disease are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in kidney disease patients.

Bringing public awareness around kidney disease and encouraging everyone over the age of 60 to get screened has become a priority for the National Kidney Foundation recently. Additionally, if you have a first degree relative with kidney disease or have diabetes and/or high blood pressure, screening is necessary. Typically, a combination of blood work, urine testing and a kidney ultrasound is used for diagnostic purposes when evaluating for the presence kidney disease. If the cause of kidney disease is not discovered by those tests, a kidney biopsy may also be performed.

In the event that the kidney disease becomes advanced, patients may need to undergo an ongoing procedure called dialysis. There are 2 main forms of dialysis. The first, hemodialysis, is a form of dialysis that involves directly cleaning the blood by taking it out of the body, running it through a dialysis machine filter and then returning the cleaned up blood back into the patient's body. Patients can often do this at home or come to a center for approximately 3 to 4 hour sessions, three days a week. The second, peritoneal dialysis, involves instilling about 2 liters of fluid into a compartment in ones abdomen and subsequently draining it. This process is done several times a day in what is called an "exchange". Although dialysis involves a significant time commitment and a drastic change in lifestyle and diet, dialysis can help to save lives of those who ordinarily would not be able to live with little or no kidney function. In addition to dialysis, kidney transplantation is the last and best option for those with kidney failure and is associated with the best outcomes when feasible.

Patient awareness to kidney disease is often half the battle in the treatment. Frequently, routine over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, Advil or Motrin may put additional stress on the kidneys in a patient who already has even mild kidney disease. Additionally, contrast dyes such as that used in cat scans are also notorious for causing additional damage to the kidneys. By becoming aware of their kidney disease, a person will be able to avoid further damage by avoiding or limiting the external factors that will cause further damage. Visiting a nephrologist (kidney doctor) may also help prevent the worsening of the kidney disease. Furthermore, Chronic Kidney Disease clinics, similar to the clinics started by Amit Nahata, M.D., in the Washington, PA, McMurray, PA, and Steubenville, OH areas aim to help halt or prevent the progression of kidney disease using a host of monitoring techniques and therapy.

For more information, contact Dr. Amit, Nahata at the Kidney Care Center at Amit.nahata@dciinc.org or (724) 229-8834.

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