Three keys to kidney health: blood sugar, blood pressure, see your doctor
Featuring Dr. Annil Sawh, WellMed at Clermont
It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of kidney disease and what you can do to improve and maintain the health of these vital organs.
Our kidneys are just below the rib cage on either side of the spine. Their purpose is to help get rid of unnecessary waste and water by producing urine. Kidneys also make hormones that aid in controlling red blood cell production and regulating blood pressure.
Kidney disease is suspected when those organs fail to perform these necessary functions, and can be diagnosed through blood and urine tests. End-stage kidney disease occurs when the kidneys lose more than 90% function, causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and decreased appetite.
According to Dr. Annil Sawh with WellMed at Clermont in Clermont, Florida, kidney disease is often silent. Most patients are completely unaware they have it until blood tests, along with a doctor’s exam, discover the problem. In fact, 37 million people in the United States are suspected of having chronic kidney disease (CKD), and most are undiagnosed.
While symptoms of chronic kidney disease, or CKD, usually go unnoticed until serious kidney damage occurs, some symptoms to look for may include edema (swollen feet or ankles), puffiness around the eyes, itchy skin and increased need to urinate at night.
“I look for these things in the physical exam,” Dr. Sawh said. “Another indication could be frothy urine,” he adds, “which means excessive protein in the urine – a sign of CKD.”
“The two most common risk factors for kidney disease are diabetes and hypertension,” Dr. Sawh says. “It is very important for patients with those diagnoses to be screened for kidney disease annually. High blood pressure is also a silent disorder, which makes regular check-ups with your physician even more important.”
Here are some other things you can do to help keep your kidneys healthy:
- Keep your blood pressure below 140/90.
- Stay in your target blood sugar range.
- Get active—physical activity helps control blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Get tested for CKD regularly if you’re at risk.
- If you have CKD, meet with a dietician to create a kidney-healthy eating plan.
- Take medications as instructed, and ask your doctor about blood pressure medicines called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers, which may protect your kidneys in addition to lowering blood pressure.
When caught early, kidney disease can be slowed, preventing the need for dialysis or transplant – the two most common treatments for ESRD.
Generally, dialysis performs the work healthy kidneys would normally carry out –removing waste products and excess fluids. With a kidney transplant, the diseased kidney is surgically removed and replaced with a healthy one. Both treatments have advantages and disadvantages that are important to discuss with your physician.
The takeaway? Be sure that your annual physical includes screening for diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease. The key to reducing kidney damage is catching these diseases early.