Kidney disease

Keeping kidneys healthy

What can we do to take better care of our kidneys?

The most important thing to do is make sure your blood pressure is under control by having it measured once a year. Also, it is important to maintain good control of your blood sugar level.

How do you know if you are at risk for kidney disease?

There are some basic things that we monitor for risk of kidney disease:

  • Blood pressure, which should be checked at least once a year
  • Urine analysis, to check protein levels
  • Creatinine level in your blood

How long can you live with one kidney?

As long as one kidney is healthy, it should not affect a lifespan.

What is serum creatinine?

Serum creatinine is a blood test that your doctor uses to measure how well your kidneys are filtering.

What should you do if you only have one kidney?

The most important thing to do is measure blood pressure and proteins to ensure that the remaining kidney is still healthy.

If one kidney goes bad, will the other one as well?

In most cases, when one kidney goes bad, the other will go bad as well.

Why are African-Americans more prone to kidney disease?

African-Americans tend to have a higher incidence of high blood pressure and diabetes. Additionally, there is a tendency for African-Americans to scar their kidneys more severely than other people. Given a certain kidney injury, an African-American may scar in the area and lose function where someone else might heal the injury with no loss of function.

Conditions that affect your kidneys

What effect does diabetes have on the kidneys?

Diabetes is now the most common cause of kidney failure in America. About one third of patients with kidney failure have it because of diabetes. There are three main things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of kidney failure in diabetics:

  1. Have tight control over blood sugar.
  2. Reduce blood pressure, by weight loss or other means.
  3. Take blood pressure medicines that are designed to protect against the progression of kidney disease.

Is the kidney regularly "monitored" in diabetic patients?

Yes. In diabetic patients we monitor both blood pressure and protein in their urine. These tests are done at least once a year.

Do recurrent kidney stones lead to kidney disease?

Kidney stones don’t lead to kidney failure often. However, if they cause long-term obstruction of the kidney, they may lead to kidney failure.

Can the non-functioning kidney cause recurrent UTI's (urinary tract infections)?

No, generally speaking, patients do not get urinary tract infections because of a non-functioning kidney.

What does blood in the urine typically mean?

There are many causes for blood in urine.

Are alcoholics at risk for kidney disease?

No, excessive alcohol consumption does not cause kidney disease.

When the kidneys are echogenicity what does that mean?

Typically it means there is scarring or cysts within the kidney that we see with a special kind of x-ray.

Can being overweight cause kidneys to fail?

Being overweight is a major contributor to high blood pressure, which often has a relationship with kidney failure. Patients who are seriously overweight should try to get their weight and blood pressure down.

Can people with kidney failure still eat sweets?

There is no relation between sweets and kidney failure, only sweets and diabetes.

Can kidney and urinary tract abnormalities be detected before birth?

The most common urinary tract problems affecting babies are often diagnosed by ultrasound before birth. Sometimes these can be repaired before the baby is born.

When kidneys fail

What causes kidney failure?

There are four major causes of kidney failure, listed from most common to least common in the United States:

  1. Diabetes
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Special kidney diseases known as glomeronephritis
  4. Hereditary kidney diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease

When a kidney shuts down, is it removed?

It is usually not necessary to remove a kidney that shuts down.

Is kidney disease hereditary?

Around 10 percent of kidney failures are caused by hereditary factors.

What can be done for fatigue when you have kidney disease?

Fatigue is a common symptom of kidney failure and there are medications that treat this symptom. If the fatigue is too severe, the best way to manage this might be with dialysis.

Can kidney disease cause back pain?

Kidney infections and certain obstructions can cause back pain. However, most back pain is unrelated to kidney problems.

What can be done for swelling and fluid?

Many patients with kidney failure have swelling, which is something we can treat with medicine. Another way patients can keep from swelling is avoiding salt in their diets.


What is the process of dialysis?

The major function of your kidneys is to filter out impurities from your blood. When kidneys don’t work, we use a dialysis machine to filter out the impurities since your kidneys aren't able to do so.

When should dialysis be considered?

After kidney failure begins, we monitor the serum creatine levels. If they reach a certain point, we consider dialysis.

How often does dialysis need to be done?

Most patients get dialysis three times a week.

How long can you stay on dialysis while waiting for a transplant?

Some patients remain on dialysis for more than 25 years so there is no upper limit to the amount of time spent on dialysis. However, the survival rate of a patient increases when they get a transplant instead.

Can dialysis be done at home?

Yes, this can be done, and around 25 percent of our patients are dialyzed this way. This possibility should be discussed with a doctor when considering dialysis as an option. Most patients who do dialysis at home would often have to travel a long distance to get to a dialysis center.

What is it like being on dialysis?

The experience varies from patient to patient. Some do well on dialysis and some do not do well. Dialysis is always better than the alternative of death, but it is not as good as getting a transplant.

Last reviewed: 
January 2016

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