Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is one of the “silent” diseases. Although it is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to affect more than 30 million Americans, 96% of them do not know they have this disease and only about 4.9 million have been actually diagnosed with CKD. This is unfortunate because early detection and proper lifestyle changes and medications can do a lot to prevent it progressing to total kidney failure with the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. Chronic kidney disease is the 9th cause of death in the United States.
Also, people who do not know they have CKD may be taking certain drugs that can hasten kidney failure. Many prescriptions carry the warning that they should not be prescribed to people with kidney disease. Also, over-the-counter drugs that do not need a doctor’s prescription like Ibuprofen can actually lead to kidney failure.
Diagnosis of CKD
The diagnosis of chronic kidney disease CKD) can be made with two very simple lab tests to check for creatinine in the blood and protein in the urine.
Diabetes and High Blood Pressure
The main risk factors for developing CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure, so it is imperative that diabetics get their diabetes under control. High blood pressure is often a symptom for kidney disease because damaged or infected kidneys have to work harder to do their job and this also causes the heart to have to work harder. At any rate, high blood pressure must be brought under control.
Heart Disease, Obesity and a Family History of CKD
Heart Disease also increases the risk for getting CKD and also untreated CKD can increase the risk for having a heart attack.
Obesity raises the risk for CKD and also for diabetes.
If there was CKD in the family this also raises the risk for getting it.
Chronic kidney disease usually gets worse over time. It is not a disease caused by aging, but for those millions of people who have it but were never diagnosed, it may show up more in seniors, especially if the senior has also developed diabetes or heart disease. Lifestyle changes can do a lot to stop or slow down the progression of CKD like losing weight, not eating a lot of salt, not eating a lot of processed meat and not eating foods that contain high amounts of oxalates. Oxalates are found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables, but some foods have very high amounts. Oxalates can damage the kidneys and also lead to the formation of kidney stones, especially when taken in large amounts or over a long period of time. Spinach, beets, chard, beet greens, rhubarb, baked potatoes in their skins and French fries are some of the foods high in oxalates. Doctors are the best ones to consult about what foods should be eaten in moderation or avoided by people with CKD.
Untreated CKD can lead to other Diseases and Early Death
There is a higher risk of dying prematurely from heart disease when CKD has not been diagnosed or treated.
Anemia, Loss of Appetite and Depression
Anemia caused by low levels of red blood cells can lead to feeling weak and suffering from fatigue. Also, a person may lose their appetite, which in turn will keep them from getting enough nutritious foods, vitamins and minerals which can weaken them even more and this can lead to malnutrition. They may also suffer from depression.
CKD that is not treated can cause an imbalance between phosphorous and calcium in the blood. If phosphorous is too high and calcium too low there can be bone problems. Further, damaged kidneys can keep Vitamin D from working properly and this can also lead to bone diseases.
Too much Potassium in the Blood
Damaged kidneys cannot properly filter the blood and this can lead to having too much potassium in the blood called hyperkalemia. This can result in problems with the heartbeat.
When the kidneys cannot properly regulate fluids in the body they can build up in excess, leading to high blood pressure, swelling in ankles and legs (edema) and being short of breath.
Weakened Immune System
People can get infections more easily, especially diabetics.
Seniors should all be tested to see if they have CKD as it can lead to many other problems and early death.