Healthy kidneys, like other functioning organs in the body, play an important role in maintaining good health. And if compromised from disease or damage, the results can be devastating.
Before determining how best to keep kidneys healthy and what to do should disease become the diagnosis, it is important to first understand what the kidneys do.
According to The Kidney Fund, kidneys play an important role in ridding the body of toxins by removing waste and extra fluid from the blood. Kidneys also help control the chemicals in the blood, maintain blood pressure, keep bones healthy and help produce red blood cells.
Located on either side of the spine just below the rib cage, kidneys are part of the urinary tract and are connected to the bladder.
Kidney problems that lead to significant kidney damage are particularly dangerous because there are typically no recognizable symptoms in the early stages. Some patients might experience regular bouts of sick stomach, tiredness or dizziness, swelling in the hands, feet or face, back pain, or bloody or foamy darker-colored urine.
By the time symptoms become noticable, the damage might already be particularly severe. If caught early enough, however, problems with the kidneys can be treated and further damage may be prevented. Left untreated, damaged kidneys can lead to permanent damage, chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.
Kidney disease can be caused by several different factors, including inherited diseases, infections or injuries. But the most common cause is diabetes or high blood pressure. Therefore, those who suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure should be tested regularly since early detection can help stop the progression of the disease.
It is important then that patients receive regular screenings to make sure they do not have compromised kidney health or are heading toward certain problems that affect the kidneys' overall functioning.
Chronic kidney disease is typically the term used for kidneys that have become damaged and are no longer functioning. If left untreated, kidney failure may be the result, requiring dialysis several times a week. In extreme cases, a kidney transplant might be necessary.
Dialysis is a treatment that does some of what a healthy kidney would do. It is usually prescribed in the end stages of kidney disease, when the kidneys have lost about 85- to 90-percent functionality.
When the kidneys fail, dialysis keeps the body in balance by:
Removing the waste, salt and extra water to prevent buildup in the body.
Maintaining safe levels of certain chemicals in the blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate
Help control blood pressure
Two types of dialysis are considered for chronic kidney disease: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
Hemodialysis is an "artificial kidney," called a hemodialyzer, that is used to remove the waste, extra chemicals and fluids from the blood. The physician will make an entrance into a blood vessel through the arm or leg. The access can be made by joining an artery to a vein under the skin, making a bigger blood vessel called a fistula. If the artery is too narrow, the physician may then graft a narrow tube or, in some cases, a catheter inserted into the vein in the neck.
Peritoneal dialysis cleans the blood inside the body. A plastic catheter is inserted into the abdomen. During treatment, the abdomen is filled with dialysate through the catheter. Extra fluid and waste is drawn out of the blood and into the dialysate.
Dialysis won't cure the kidney disease. It only replaces the nonfunctioning kidney's ability to do its job in the body. Those who receive dialysis have treatments for life unless they receive a kidney transplant.
The only way to accurately test for kidney disease is to receive regular screenings, particularly for those who suffer from risk factors like high blood pressure or diabetes, said Dr. Raghu Juvvadi, who practices nephrology at Access Health Care in Spring Hill.
Kidney disease is not age discriminate, he added.
"I have patients who are 27 and 87," he said. Once kidney disease is detected, the next step is to consider treatment options.
Juvvadi said most problems involving damaged kidneys are the result of complications from diabetes and high blood pressure. The determination is made once a patient has been referred to him after a test indicates the kidneys are not functioning at their capacity.
"And we then look for a treatment option," he said.
There are five stages to chronic kidney disease, Juvvadi said. "Usually when they are at around stage four, we begin talking to the patient about dialysis."
Juvvadi stressed that once the damage to the kidney is done, there is no getting it back to its healthy state.
"It doesn't repair itself," he said.
Patients at all stages of the disease need to be concerned about the potential for further damage and should then make significant changes like managing their diabetes and/or blood pressure.
"Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words," Juvvadi added. "I show them the pictures and graphs in my office and everything makes more sense to them."
Other factors can exacerbate the damage to the kidneys such as taking certain pain killers or medications or suffering from kidney stones along with high blood pressure or diabetes or obesity, for example.
Dr. Juvvadi is trained in geriatrics as well as nephrology. His passion is driven from his ability to work directly with his patients at preventing their kidney disease from getting worse.
"Dialysis is really hard on the patient and on the family," he said. His goal is to help patients understand the power they have to prevent their condition from getting to the latter stages of the disease.
"In the hospital setting, we diagnose and treat a lot of conditions," Juvaddi said. "But in the office setting, I can really prevent the kidney problems from getting worse. I give them my experience from a geriatrics and nephrology perspective. And when I talk to them face to face, I can make a big impact."
Dr. Juvvadi's practice is located at Access Health Care; 5378 Spring Hill Dr.; Spring Hill, F. His office can be reached at (352) 398-4573 or visit the website at www.accesshealth carellc.net.
Hernando Today Correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org