Kidney Disease

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Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter all the blood in the body and create urine to excrete waste. The kidneys also control production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your tissues.

The National Institutes of Health estimates more than 20 million adults as young as 20 years old in the United States have chronic kidney disease (CKD), the gradual loss of kidney function. Without early stage identification and treatment, CKD may lead to kidney failure. Diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) cause most CKD cases.

People who have had a kidney stone have as much as a 50 percent chance of recurrence. This painful and prevalent disease can be managed and the recurrence risk reduced if treated from surgical and metabolic perspectives.

Kidney disease risk factors include:
  • Age, if you are older than 50
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • A family history of kidney disease

Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Kidney disease symptoms include:
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Poor appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Nighttime muscle cramping
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Eye puffiness, especially in the morning
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • The need to urinate more often, especially at night
These symptoms also are indications of other conditions. Contact your doctor to be properly diagnosed and treated.

Diagnosing and Treating Kidney Disease
Testing your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the best way to measure your kidney function level and determine the stage of your kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

For the GFR, you will submit a blood sample to be analyzed for creatinine, a waste product your muscles generate. Your doctor will evaluate these results, along with your age, race, gender and other factors to calculate your GFR. A GFR of at least 90 indicates normal kidney function or minimal kidney damage. A score as high as 15 indicates kidney failure.

If your GFR indicates kidney disease, your doctor probably will order more tests, including:
  • An ultrasound or CT scan to determine kidney size and look for a tumor, kidney stone or other problems
  • A biopsy to assess kidney damage
Your doctor will explain your test results and develop your treatment plan to prevent or slow further damage to the kidneys. Treatment may include:
  • Controlling diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Taking medicines such as an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) to reduce urine protein levels
  • Following a healthy diet with prescribed sodium, fluid and protein levels
  • Keeping regular follow-up appointments. Your doctor will regularly order blood and urine tests to check your kidney function and adjust you diet or medicines
Disease progression will require dialysis to filter your blood and possibly a kidney transplant. Dialysis involves a machine that filters blood to remove wastes and excess fluid and restore chemical balance – the work healthy kidneys perform. You may require dialysis for many years or as a bridge to a kidney transplant. A healthy kidney from a donor would replace your failing kidneys.

Kidney Cancer
At Houston Methodist, your oncology team is committed to offering you the most advanced cancer treatments available. Our services include established approaches, as well as innovative treatments.

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