Kidney Disease: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

The most important thing to remember about Kidney Disease is that your kidneys are not solitary organs. When your kidneys are harmed or begin to malfunction, other organs are severely affected, which is what makes Kidney Disease so dangerous. They kidneys themselves perform a vital function – removing wastes and toxins from the body via urine – but if they cause other organs to malfunction, the affected person can suffer from a host of secondary complications, further inhibiting the body’s ability to recover.

Kidney Disease is a universal term referring to a condition in which the kidneys’ ability to remove and regulate waste is compromised. Harmful toxins begin to accumulate in the body because the kidneys have been unable to properly filter chemicals, and the victim begins to suffer symptoms of uremia. This can lead to partial and temporary loss of kidney function or complete kidney failure, depending on the cause of Kidney Disease and the severity of the obstruction or disease.

Unfortunately, the kidneys are necessary for human survival, and all forms of Kidney Disease are painful and life threatening. The kidneys are extremely sensetive organs located at the base and on either side of the rib cage, and any swelling or inflamation of these organs can cause severe pain. The human body can sustain only a certain amount of harmful toxins before they must be filtered through the kidneys, and when the kidneys malfunction or stop working altogether, the body becomes susceptible to secondary infections and other problems.

CAUSES

There are three main causes of Kidney Disease: inherited, congenital and acquired.

Inherited Kidney Disease is passed along in the genetic make-up of human beings, and though it may not present itself in every generation, the potential is always there. In many cases, Kidney Disease will not manifest through up to six generations, so it is difficult to track through family trees. As with all genetically acquired diseases, Kidney Disease can be either dormant or active in subsequent generations. It usually manifests in the late childhood to early teen years.

One of the most common forms of inherited Kidney Disease is Polycystic Kidney Disease, called PKD for short. It involves the forming of fluid-filled cysts in the kidney tubules, resulting in the compression and eventual replacement of healthy kidney cells. In some forms (the recessove forms) victims experience kidney failure in childhood or young adulthood, but in most (dominant forms), kidney failure does not occur until the late forties.

Congenital Kidney Disease involves malformations in the kidney, bladder and surrounding organs, causing pressure or disabling of the kidneys themselves. Malformations of the kidneys are surprisingly common, affecting up to 20% of the population, but they are generally symptom-free and may never cause problems. Some patients who suffer from Congeniatal Kidney Disease experience relatively minor symptoms, such as Kidney Stones or lower back pain, while others may lose their kidneys entirely.

Acquired Kidney Disease is most commonly characterized by nephritis, or swelling of the kidneys, and is the most common form of Kidney Disease. This type of kidney problem is acquired by the victim due to unfortunate circumstances or to mechanical blockages in the kidneys or urinary tract. If gone unchecked, Acquired Kidney Disease can result in complete kidney failure, which is ultimately fatal.

Mechanical blockages can include scar tissue, chemical crystals (kidney stones), and tumors.

SYMPTOMS

Unlike other types of diseases, Kidney Disease is almost always characterized by the same line of symptoms. Common symptoms include:

– lower back pain
– anemia
– painful urination
– blood in unrine
– swelling of face, eyelids, hands and feet
– descrease in urine output
– tenderness in lower back

These symptoms are not singularly limited to Kidney Disease, and if you have one or more, the only way to diagnose Kidney Disease is to see a doctor. Typically, you will be tested by having dye injected into the abdomen in order for the kidneys to be x-rayed.

TREATMENT

The treatment of Kidney Disease has reached new heights in the last several years, and the processes have been refined to produce far more favorable results for those suffering from Kidney Disease. In 1982, the outlook for a patient with kidney failure was bleak, and Kidney Disease was responsible for more than 100,000 deaths in that one year.

There are three major treatment options for patients with Kidney Disease:

1. Hemodialysis – This process is rather complicated, and involves allowing a machine to take on the normal functions of healthy kidneys. Up to three times per day, the patient is hooked up to the machine via plastic tubing that is connected to certain blood vessles in the arms or legs. Hemodialysis treatment can take up to three hours to complete each time, and at one point, patients had to be hospitalized in order to receive this treatment. Now, however, there are dialysis units in every major city that facilitate outpatient care, and some patients even purchase dialysis machines for their homes.

2. Peritoneal Dialysis – In this form of treatment, a catheter is surgically placed in the abdomen. On a regimented schedule, the patient will feed dialysis solution – a cleansing liquid that helps clear the body of harmful toxins – into the catheter. Sometimes this process is automated, using a machine, and other times it is done by hand. This treatment can be administered at home once sufficient scar tissue has been formed to hold the catheter in place.

3. Kidney Transplant – Other than the heart, the kidney is one of the most difficult organs to acquire. Up until ten years ago, kidney transplants had a very minimal chance of working, as many patients’ bodies would reject the organ after it was acquired. The process has been refined, however, and kidney transplants have an 80% chance of working effectively and for the entire durating of the patients’ life. Kidney transplants are needed after a patient reaches the point of total kidney failure, which happens after approximately 90% of the kidneys’ ability to function has deteriorated.

Kidney Disease does not always lead to complete kidney failure, and sometimes consists of only mild malformations or of occassional kidney stones. Although kidney stones are particularly painful – ranging in size from tiny crystals to stones the size of golf balls – they do not mean that your kidneys will eventually lose function. In most cases, kidney stones can be passed through the urethra, and in extreme situations, they can be surgically removed. Kidney stones are usually accompanied by pain in the lower back, difficulty breathing, continual vomiting and bloody urine.

If you are diagnosed with a form of Kidney Disease, do your best to follow the diet prescribed by your doctor and to routinely take whatever medicine you are given. Your kidneys are extremely important to your overall health, and malfunctions should not be taken lightly.

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