Keeping it renal: raising awareness of chronic kidney disease

What are the kidneys and why are they important?

The kidneys are around the size of a clenched fist that sit at the back of the abdomen slightly in front of the spinal cord on either side. Each kidney has an arterial supply, venous drainage and a tube leading to the bladder (the ureter). The kidneys act as a filtration system and are involved in removing waste products and excess water from the bloodstream. Additionally, they are involved in regulating minerals in the bloodstream, regulating blood pressure and also have a role in bone metabolism.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is thought to affect around 10% of the population in the UK. CKD is a long-term health problem that varies in severity. It has many different causes; the most common are diabetes and hypertension, but heart disease, inflammation (glomerulonephritis), blockages to the ureters or urinary tract, certain medications and a family history can also cause CKD. There are also a number of rare kidney diseases, such as lupus nephritis, atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome and IgA nephropathy, which are often of genetic origin and account for 10% of patients on renal replacement therapy. The risk of developing CKD increases with age, particularly in people with diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

CKD can be difficult to identify as many people with early disease do not show any symptoms. In more severe disease, patients may experience symptoms such as generally feeling unwell, lethargy, weakness, breathing difficulties, itching, aches/pains and difficulty sleeping. CKD can also lead to heart problems, hypertension and strokes. Patients are usually diagnosed through blood tests to check how well the kidneys are functioning (estimated glomerular filtration rate test) and checking for the protein albumin, which accumulates when the kidneys are damaged. In those with rare kidney diseases, diagnosis is often much more difficult and rare diseases can sometimes affect organs other than just the kidneys.

Most people diagnosed with CKD live completely normal lives and can manage their condition by improving their overall health. To reduce the risk of accelerating the disease, patients may be encouraged to stay physically active, drink plenty of water and adapt their diet to restrict salt and fat intake. Regular blood pressure checks are essential and people with diabetes will be encouraged to keep blood glucose under control. Certain medications may also be prescribed, such as those controlling cholesterol and blood pressure. Patients with some rare diseases may have more complex needs. In some genetic conditions, therapies are available that target the root cause of the disease, meaning that patients can still live relatively normal lives.

Unfortunately, some people with CKD may progress to kidney failure, which means the kidneys stop functioning altogether. These individuals therefore need replacement therapy, which comes in the form of dialysis, either where the blood is filtered through a machine outside the body (haemodialysis) or through the abdominal lining (peritoneal dialysis). Patients requiring dialysis may also be candidates for transplant, where a new kidney from a healthy or deceased donor is placed into the body, usually at the bottom of the abdomen (the old kidneys are kept in place unless they are infected or cancerous). While people with a kidney transplant are often at increased risk of infection, due to the anti-rejection medications required (which suppress the immune system), they will often have much more freedom than those on dialysis.

At Bioscript, we are proud to be working with clients in the fight against kidney disease. For further details, please contact info@bioscriptgroup.com.

 

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