Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the gradual loss of kidney function, or the ability of kidneys to filter waste and excess fluid out of the blood. In the beginning stages of chronic kidney disease, there are few signs or symptoms. Over time, when it becomes advanced CKD, waste, fluid, and electrolytes can reach dangerous levels and that’s when symptoms become much more apparent. Without proper treatment CKD can progress to end-stage renal disease, or kidney failure, which is fatal without a kidney transplant or dialysis.
Symptoms of chronic kidney disease Include:
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Increase or decrease in urination
- Dry skin
People with CKD can also develop anemia or bone disease and become malnourished. In advanced cases, kidney disease can develop into heart disease, including stroke or heart attack.
What Causes Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease can be caused by a variety of factors, but the most common causes are diabetes and high blood pressure.
When diabetes causes high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, the high amount of sugar in the bloodstream damages the blood vessels. If these blood sugar levels remain consistently high, this damage to the blood vessels can cause serious harm to the kidneys and cause CKD.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure is another condition that is harmful to the blood vessels. Damage to the blood vessels consequently causes damage to the kidneys. CKD causes blood pressure to rise even further, causing more harm to the blood vessels and the kidneys.
How Chronic Kidney Disease Can Be Treated
While there isn’t a definitive treatment for chronic kidney disease right now, scientists are developing and researching new ways that it may be fully treated in the future. Researchers have recently discovered a protein called klotho protein. As chronic kidney disease gets worse, researchers have noticed that the amount of klotho in the blood decreases. Recent studies have shown that klotho injections in animals can slow the progression of kidney dysfunction in CKD. Scientists are now working on developing klotho treatment for humans.
Currently, treating kidney disease centers on slowing down the continuation of kidney damage. This is done by managing the underlying cause, or the disease that’s causing CKD, as much as possible. Treatment is essential for preventing the progression of CKD to end-stage renal disease, or kidney failure.
Stabilizing Blood Sugar Levels
If CKD is caused by diabetes, the best thing to do is to control blood sugar levels so that damage isn’t done to blood vessels. Blood sugar levels can be controlled by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, taking prescribed medication as indicated, and working closely with a diabetes management team.
Lowering High Blood Pressure
If CKD is caused by high blood pressure or CKD exacerbates high blood pressure, it is extremely important to get blood pressure readings within the normal range (less than 130/80). High blood pressure can be lowered with lifestyle changes including healthy diet, exercise, and stress management techniques. High blood pressure is negatively affected by high levels of stress, so adopting ways of lowering stress, like meditation, yoga, or acupuncture can really improve one’s health. If lifestyle changes alone don’t work, talking to a doctor about medication that can lower blood pressure can be helpful.