Lowering the risk of chronic kidney disease

By Dr. Dinesh Khullar in Nephrology

Oct 07 , 2015 | 2 min read

Are you someone who has had diabetes for more than 10 years? It is time for you to get your kidneys evaluated. Diabetes is now becoming the most common cause of chronic kidney disease which was often called the End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD) in the past. Many people have an undetermined cause for kidney disease.

Environmental factors have been postulated in its causation. With the change in lifestyle, kidney disease is spreading to more and more people. A population-based study calculated that in India the dialysis population is growing at the rate of 10–20 per cent annually.

What is chronic kidney disease?

Kidney disease means that the kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood like they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in the body. It also can cause other problems that can harm your health. The term ‘chronic’ indicates the irreversibility to the normal state, which is opposed to ‘acute kidney injury’ which is a temporary phenomenon.

If kidney disease is not treated, it can lead to ESRD. This means the kidneys stop working. Once the kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain health.

Kidney disease is most often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure which usually occurs progressively at a slow pace over years but there can be some people who have rapid deterioration of renal function. Systemic diseases affect both the kidneys at the same time which leads to low functional reserve.

How do I know if I have Kidney disease?

Early kidney disease usually shows no signs and symptoms and the only way to know is blood and urine tests. Apart from this ultrasound of the kidneys, it helps to ascertain the size and position of the kidneys. It is only later in the stages of chronic kidney disease that one gets symptoms and signs like nausea, lack of appetite, swelling over body parts and altered behaviour at times.

Can it be cured? What if I have chronic kidney disease?

‘Chronic’ kidney disease in its nature is irreversible, but its progression to end stage can be slowed or stopped if detected early If tests show you have kidney disease, you can take steps to protect your kidneys from further damage. There are medicines you can take and other things you can do, such as controlling your blood sugar and keeping your blood pressure below the target set by your doctor to help delay or prevent kidney failure.

Are there any precautions I can take? What diet should I take?

The general precautions involve a controlled blood pressure and sugar level along with regular blood tests done during visits to your doctor. It is best to follow a balanced diet on the advice of your dietician. By and large the diet should have sufficient calories but should be limited in protein if you are not on dialysis. During dialysis the diet gets modified considerably. The diet should be limited in sodium, phosphorus and potassium.

The road ahead. Is there a hope?

Kidney disease can be controlled and prevented if we understand the circumstances and risk factors which predispose to it. This goes a long way in preventing a patient ending up on dialysis or requiring a kidney transplant. A kidney patient even if on dialysis or after a transplant can lead a healthy life if adequate measures are taken.