Here’s why your kidneys need extra care

The kidneys are among the most susceptible organs to diseases, disorders, and unhealthy lifestyles. Kidney disease, while life-threatening, often does not show symptoms till its later stages by which time it can take an immense toll on the quality of life.

Dr. Devi Shetty
Dr. Rammohan Bhat, Dr. Deepak Shankar Ray, Dr. Sunil Dharmani

Understanding Kidney Health


How does kidney failure occur?

Kidney failure occurs when your kidneys lose the ability to filter waste from your blood sufficiently. Many factors can interfere with your kidney health and function, such as:

a) Toxic exposure to environmental pollutants

b) Certain acute and chronic diseases

c) Severe dehydration

d) Kidney trauma

Your body becomes overloaded with toxins if your kidneys can’t do their regular job. This can lead to kidney failure and can even be life-threatening if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

According to Dr. Dharmani, many different symptoms can be signs of kidney failure. No symptoms are present sometimes, but usually someone with kidney failure will see a few signs of the disease. Possible symptoms include:

1. A reduced amount of urine

2. Swelling of your legs, ankles and feet from retention of fluids caused by the failure of your kidneys to eliminate water waste

3. Unexplained shortness of breath

4. Excessive drowsiness or fatigue

5. Persistent nausea

6. Confusion

7. Pain or pressure in your chest

8. Itching

9. Seizures

How can one prevent kidney problems?

According to Dr. Bhat, there are eight golden rules one should follow to keep kidney problems at bay. Exercise regularly, monitor and control blood sugar level, monitor your blood pressure, eat healthy and stay fit, have sufficient fluid intake, if not advised otherwise by your doctor. Smoking causes more kidney trouble, give it up and don’t take over-the-counter pills like painkillers if not prescribed- they have ill effects on kidney functioning too. Regular check-up of urine, blood sugar and blood pressure are the keys to steer clear of Kidney issues, said the doctors unanimously.

What is Dialysis and what are the kinds of dialysis?

Dialysis is the artificial process of eliminating waste (diffusion) and unwanted water (ultrafiltration) from the blood. Our kidneys do this naturally. Some people, however, may have failed or damaged kidneys which cannot carry out the function properly - they may need dialysis. In other words, dialysis is the artificial replacement for lost kidney function (renal replacement therapy). They are of two kinds -Peritoneal and Haemodialysis. For Haemodialysis, the blood circulates outside the body of the patient - it goes through a machine that has special filters. The blood comes out of the patient through a catheter (a flexible tube) that is inserted into the vein, gets cleansed and is put back in. In Peritoneal however, a sterile (dialysate) solution rich in minerals and glucose is run through a tube into the peritoneal cavity, the abdominal body cavity around the intestine, where the peritoneal membrane acts as a semi-permeable membrane. In other words, peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of the abdomen as a filter of waste products from the blood.

When is kidney transplant suggested?

An end stage kidney disease needs treatment to prevent life threatening consequences of the waste product build up, leading to coma and death. It is in these situations that a transplant is suggested.
Post the initial few months of the transplant, says Dr. Ray, the life of a kidney transplant patient goes back to being almost normal supported by some regular medication and exercising. Any time is good time for a kidney transplant, thanks to the advancement in technology. If you are fit, you are ready for transplant.

What are the advancements in kidney care & transplant?

About one-third of people who offer to donate a kidney will either be blood-type incompatible or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) incompatible with their intended recipient. Kidney paired donation (KPD), or kidney exchange, circumvents the incompatibility between donor and intended recipient by redistributing organs among two or more donors before the transplants. In the simplest type of KPD, two donors exchange kidneys so that their two candidates can each receive a compatible transplant. This along with ABO incompatible transplant protocol, in which now transplants can now be possible between previously incompatible blood groups makes transplant way easier, saving lives.

How will it be to survive with one kidney?

Dr. Dharmani commented that a person could happily function almost like a regular individual on just one kidney. So whether one is born with one kidney, has one functioning kidney or has lost a kidney owing to failure, a little medical help and regular exercising along with a healthy lifestyle is enough to sail one through.

What are the kinds of kidney problems that will occur in children?

According to Dr. Bhat, kidney problems in children usually are congenital in kind, where the children either have small kidney, are born with joint kidneys, have extra kidney valves, etc. They might have a case of excessive protein leakage known as nephrotic syndrome, however, all of which can be controlled, treated and revived through medicinal intervention owing to advancement in the field of paediatric nephrology.