Living With Chronic Illness

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Chronic kidney disease means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should.

The disease is called chronic because the damage to your kidneys happens slowly over a long period of time.

This damage can cause wastes to build up in your body and can cause other health problems.

 

What causes chronic kidney disease?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease.

Too much glucose, also called sugar, in your blood damages your kidneys’ filters. Over time, your kidneys can become so damaged that they no longer do a good job filtering wastes and extra fluid from your body.

High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys so they don’t work as well.

Your healthcare provider may do tests to find out why you have kidney disease. The cause of your kidney disease may affect the type of treatment you receive.

Other risk factors include heart disease and a family history of kidney failure.

 

What are the symptoms?

You may wonder how you can have chronic kidney disease and feel fine. Kidneys have greater capacity to do their job than is needed to keep us healthy. For example, you can donate one kidney and remain healthy. You can also have kidney damage without any symptoms because, despite the damage, your kidneys are still doing enough work to keep you feeling well.

The only way to know if you have kidney disease is to get your kidneys checked with blood and urine tests.

Early kidney disease usually doesn’t have any symptoms. Testing is the only way to know how well your kidneys are working. Get checked for kidney disease if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and a family history of kidney failure.

Symptoms

As kidney disease worsens, a person may have swelling, called edema. Edema happens when the kidneys can’t get rid of extra fluid and salt. Edema can occur in the legs, feet or ankles and less often in the hands or face.

People with chronic kidney disease can also develop anemia, bone disease and malnutrition

 

Tests and diagnosis

Testing may be the only way to know if you have kidney disease. Get checked if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a family history of kidney failure. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment.

If you have diabetes, get checked every year. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease or a family history, talk with your healthcare provider about how often you should get tested. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help protect your kidneys.

 

Managing chronic kidney disease

You can take steps to protect your kidneys. The most important step you can take to treat kidney disease is to control your blood pressure.

  • Control your blood pressure

  • Meet your blood glucose goal if you have diabetes

  • Work with your healthcare team to monitor your kidney health

  • Take medicines as prescribed

  • Work with a dietitian to develop a meal plan

  • Make physical activity part of your routine

  • Aim for a healthy weight

  • Get enough sleep

  • Stop smoking

  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress and depression

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