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There are many kinds of kidney disease, most of which are potentially serious. Whether you get kidney disease is mostly due to bad luck, but whether it progresses to end-stage kidney failure does depend largely on what is done about it. When the kidneys become diseased or damaged, they can suddenly or gradually lose their ability to perform their vital functions. Waste products and excess fluid then build up inside the body, causing a variety of symptoms, particularly swelling of the hands and feet, shortness of breath, and a frequent urge to urinate. If left untreated, diseased kidneys may eventually stop functioning. Loss of kidney function is a very serious and potentially fatal condition.
Some kidney diseases are genetic, such as Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). The kidneys become filled with cysts, which cause the kidneys to become less effective, and eventually leads to kidney failure. A variant of PKD is not usually detected until adulthood. This is known as "adult PKD", as the symptoms usually do not occur until patients are well into adulthood. However, with advances in diagnostic imaging technology, doctors are gradually becoming able to detect these conditions before symptoms appear.
Once the kidney is damaged to a certain degree, it continues to deteriorate (i.e., undergo more scarring, notably glomerular sclerosis) even if the underlying disease is cured. [Lancet 338: pp.419 & 423, 1991]
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Anemia: A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.
Azotemia: Increased levels of urea in blood.
Chronic Renal Failure: (CRF) Irreversible, progressive impaired kidney function. The early stage, when the kidneys no longer function properly but do not yet require dialysis, is known as Chronic Renal Insufficiency (CRI). CRI can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are not usually apparent until kidney disease has progressed significantly. Common symptoms include a frequent need to urinate and swelling, as well as possible anemia, fatigue, weakness, headaches and loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bad breath and itchy skin may develop as toxic metabolites, normally filtered out of the blood by the kidneys, build up to harmful levels. Over time (up to 10 or 20 years), CRF generally progresses from CRI to End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD, also known as Kidney Failure). Patients with ESRD no longer have kidney function adequate to sustain life and require dialysis or kidney transplantation. Without proper treatment, ESRD is fatal.
Cirrhosis: A long-term disease in which the liver becomes covered with fiber-like tissue. This causes the liver tissue to break down and become filled with fat. All functions of the liver then decrease, including the production of glucose, processing drugs and alcohol, and vitamin absorption. Stomach and bowel function, and the making of hormones are also affected.
Cysts: A closed pocket or pouch of tissue; a cyst may form within any tissue in the body and can be filled with air, fluid, pus, or other material. Cysts within the lung generally are air filled, while cysts involving the lymph system or kidneys are fluid filled. Cysts under the skin are benign, extremely common, movable lumps. These may develop as a result of infection, clogging of sebaceous glands, developmental abnormalities or around foreign bodies.
Edema: Abnormal accumulation of fluids within tissues resulting in swelling.
Gram: (gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.
Hypertension: High blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure because it adds to the workload of the heart, causing it to enlarge and, over time, to weaken; in addition, it may damage the walls of the arteries.
Immune System: A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
Kidney Stone: A stone (concretion) in the kidney. If the stone is large enough to block the tube (ureter) and stop the flow of urine from the kidney, it must be removed by surgery or other methods. Also called Renal Calculus. Symptoms usually begin with intense waves of pain as a stone moves in the urinary tract. Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur. Later, pain may spread to the groin. The pain may continue if the stone is too large to pass; blood may appear in the urine and there may be the need to urinate more often or a burning sensation during urination. If fever and chills accompany any of these symptoms, an infection may be present and a doctor should be seen immediately.
Metabolism: The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.
Nervous System: A system in the body that is comprised of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, ganglia and parts of the receptor organs that receive and interpret stimuli and transmit impulses to effector organs.
Potassium: A mineral that serves as an electrolyte and is involved in the balance of fluid within the body. Our bodies contain more than twice as much potassium as sodium (typically 9oz versus 4oz). About 98% of total body potassium is inside our cells. Potassium is the principal cation (positive ion) of the fluid within cells and is important in controlling the activity of the heart, muscles, nervous system and just about every cell in the body. Potassium regulates the water balance and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues. Evidence is showing that potassium is also involved in bone calcification. Potassium is a cofactor in many reactions, especially those involving energy production and muscle building.
Sodium: An essential mineral that our bodies regulate and conserve. Excess sodium retention increases the fluid volume (edema) and low sodium leads to less fluid and relative dehydration. The adult body averages a total content of over 100 grams of sodium, of which a surprising one-third is in bone. A small amount of sodium does get into cell interiors, but this represents only about ten percent of the body content. The remaining 57 percent or so of the body sodium content is in the fluid immediately surrounding the cells, where it is the major cation (positive ion). The role of sodium in the extracellular fluid is maintaining osmotic equilibrium (the proper difference in ions dissolved in the fluids inside and outside the cell) and extracellular fluid volume. Sodium is also involved in nerve impulse transmission, muscle tone and nutrient transport. All of these functions are interrelated with potassium.
Vitamin D: A fat-soluble vitamin essential to one's health. Regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood by improving their absorption and utilization. Necessary for normal growth and formation of bones and teeth. For Vitamin D only, 1mcg translates to 40 IU.