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.

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.

Dialysis

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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