The signs and symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease
The kidneys are a vital organ, responsible for removing waste substances from the blood. Many conditions are known to undermine kidney function, but the two main causes include high blood pressure and diabetes. Others include recurrent urinary tract infections, polycystic kidney disease, congenital malformations, lupus, enlarged prostate glands in men, kidney stones and tumours.
Kidney disease can make individuals feel really quite unwell and place them at risk of serious complications. Some associated health problems include high blood pressure, weak bones, damage to nerves, anaemia and poor nutritional health. Kidney disease also puts individuals at high risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) describes an abnormality of the kidney where damage, even if slight, has occurred and does not improve over a short period of time. Problems affecting the kidneys such as an uncomplicated urinary tract infection which improves and does not cause kidney damage is not chronic. Research suggests that 1 in 10 of the UK population may have slight kidney disease and it is common in elderly patients.
What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?
Many people will not be troubled by symptoms until the disease as progressed quite far. Sometimes people notice:
- fatigue and lack of energy
- poor concentration
- reduced appetite
- difficulty with sleeping
- muscle cramps at night
- shortness of breath
- swollen feet and ankles
- dry, itchy skin
- need to pass urine more often, particularly at night
Am I at risk of developing chronic kidney disease?
Early identification and treatment of risk factors is essential to preserving your kidney function and to avoid kidney failure, which may require dialysis or kidney transplant to maintain life.
Here are some common risk factors:
- high blood pressure
- family members who have chronic kidney disease or kidney failure
- age – the older you are the more at risk you are
- ethnicities at risk include African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asians
How is chronic kidney disease diagnosed?
Book a GP appointment or a Health Check assessment at London City Healthcare and take the opportunity to discuss your health, undergo a thorough examination and the necessary blood tests.
As the large majority of people have no symptoms, chronic kidney disease is often diagnosed by abnormalities in tests eg bloods, urine or imaging.
Your ‘eGFR’ (estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) will be calculated from blood test results. This provides an indication of your kidney function and the stage of your kidney disease, if you have it.
Urine samples are also sent to the lab for further analysis. Information from blood and urine analysis help to determine how the doctor can best help tailor treatment specifically for your circumstances.
Sometimes an ultrasound or CT scan of your kidneys and urinary tract may be required, and occasionally onward referral to a renal specialist for further investigation is necessary. They can perform kidney biopsies to ascertain specific types of kidney disease.
How is chronic kidney disease managed?
This largely depends on the underlying cause of the disease, for example if high blood pressure contributed to it, this needs to be managed. If poorly controlled sugar levels or diabetes contributed to it, this in turn needs to be managed too. If obesity is present, measures to address diet and physical activity to lose weight will need to be promoted.
Treatment options for kidney disease include medication, kidney transplant and dialysis. The National Kidney Foundation as lots of information about the different treatment options available. See the National Kidney Federation for further information.
Dr. Vidya Kanthi BSc., MBBS nMRCGP DFSRH DRCOG DCH PGDDiabetes