Most of the signs of kidney diseases are unnoticed, ignored, or appear very late in the disease. Over 37 million American adults have kidney diseases, and most are not aware of it.
The surest way to know whether you have a kidney disease is to consult a doctor to get examined and tested. Some of the common signs that may indicate that you have a kidney disease are as follows:
- Feeling tired or lethargic: Kidney diseases may make you feel as if you lack energy. You may get tired easily and have difficulty concentrating. A severe decrease in kidney function can lead to a buildup of toxins and impurities in the blood. It also causes a reduction in red blood cells. This can cause people to feel tired and weak and can make it hard to concentrate.
- A change in urine frequency and quantity: Kidney diseases may be associated with an increase in urine frequency and amount. Some people may report decreased urine frequency or having scanty urine.
- Blood in urine: In certain cases, the urine may be “cola-colored” or “frank red.” This is because of damage to the filters in the kidneys.
- Frothy or foamy urine: A smelly urine that froths or foams may point to either an infection of the kidneys or filtering out of albumin in the urine. Albumin is a protein, and its presence in the urine points to kidney damage.
- Presence of puffy face and swollen ankles: The loss of proteins cause swelling over the ankles and feet, especially in the mornings. Sometimes, facial swelling (moon face) may also be seen. Swelling that occurs when asleep and goes away during the day must be investigated for kidney diseases.
- Having trouble sleeping: Kidneys are responsible for filtering out wastes from the body through urine. There is also restlessness of legs during sleep, which is believed to be due to an increased urea level in the blood. Kidney diseases are commonly associated with being overweight/obese and sleep apnea (snoring or having trouble breathing during sleep).
- Dry and itchy skin: Kidney diseases may cause a buildup of toxins such as urea and uric acid under the skin. This along with an imbalance of nutrients in the body cause skin problems.
- Loss of appetite: This is a nonspecific sign that may occur in many conditions including kidney diseases.
- Muscle cramps: Deficiencies and imbalance in essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium may cause muscle cramps in people with kidney diseases.
What causes kidney diseases?
Kidney diseases have various causes. Some of the common causes are as follows:
- High blood pressure
- Age above 60 years increases the risk of kidney diseases
- Family history of kidney diseases
- Race or ethnicity, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans have a higher likelihood to have kidney diseases.
- Glomerulonephritis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tiny blood vessels or glomeruli in the kidneys)
- Hereditary diseases such as polycystic kidney disease (a genetic condition that causes many cysts to grow in the kidneys)
- Injuries or major blood loss
- Certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Kidney stones
- Enlarged prostate
Can kidney diseases be prevented?
You can often lower your risk of kidney diseases or prevent its progression. Certain ways to prevent kidney diseases are as follows:
- Healthy diet: Avoid foods that are rich in fats and salts such as fried or junk foods, including chips, pickles, salted nuts, and frozen or preserved foods. Adequate hydration with water and non-sugary drinks helps flush out the toxins from the kidneys.
- Timely treatment of urinary tract infections: Many times, urinary infections are neglected. Timely management of infections and urinary tract stones may prevent kidney damage in the long run.
- Avoid self-medications and supplements: Certain over-the-counter (OTC) supplements and painkillers have caused kidney damage in some people. Never take any medicine without the advice of a healthcare professional.
- Physical activity: Exercising for at least 30 minutes for five days a week may help in regulating blood sugar and blood pressure and maintaining a healthy weight. This reduces many risk factors contributing to kidney diseases.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco: Tobacco and alcohol can damage various organs including the kidneys. Avoiding them helps to lead a healthy life. It is recommended that men should not have more than two drinks per day, and women must restrict to not more than one drink per day.
- Routine medical checkup: Most signs of kidney diseases appear late or are ignored. Regular health checkups help in the management of risk factors and detecting kidney diseases early.
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