March is National Kidney Month

March is National Kidney Month and March 14th is World Kidney Day. There are several things to know about kidney disease, a “silent disease” which can cause serious health problems. It is often hard to recognize kidney disease until it has reached advanced stages because there are often no symptoms in the beginning.

The kidneys serve as a blood filtration system for the body. Kidneys remove toxins and clean the blood, then pump it back into the bloodstream. Kidneys also serve other purposes as they help store water, regulate urine flow and help monitor oxygen levels in the blood. Without proper kidney function, the bloodstream can contaminate and cause damage to the body.


kidney disease

Types of Kidney Disease 

Each day, the kidneys remove around two quarts of waste and impurities from the blood. When someone has kidney disease, blood is not effectively being purified. There are several types of kidney disease, which can develop in different ways, and can sometimes be fatal.

  • Diabetes. The most familiar kidney disease is diabetes; it is also the most common. In fact, diabetes is the 7th deadliest disease in the United States, claiming about 80,000 lives each year. With diabetes, the pancreas is not producing enough insulin. The result is higher glucose levels in the blood, creating damage to the filtering units within the kidneys.  Monitoring glucose levels with a proper diet can help control or prevent diabetes.
  • Polycystic kidney disease. PKD is more often an inherited type of kidney disorder. It occurs when several cysts to develop within the kidneys, depleting kidney function and allowing impurities to remain in the blood. Symptoms may be mild or nonexistent. In other cases, PKD can result in high blood pressure, vomiting, slow child growth, anemia and blood in the urine.
  • Pyelonephritis. Pyelonephritis is a bacterial infection within the kidneys and is often the result of  blockage causing complications in urine flow. The blockage may be from a kidney stone, which causes scarring in the ureters and leads to infection. If recurring infections persist, the bacteria may become immune to medication. It is important to fulfill the entire antibiotic prescription provided by a doctor in order to remove the infection entirely.
  • Glomerular Diseases. Glomeruli are tiny blood vessels in the kidneys that aid in blood filtration. These vessels can be damaged from sclerotic diseases, infection-related illness or certain autoimmune diseases. Examples include systemic lupus erythematosus, Alport’s syndrome and diabetic nephropathy.
  • Diabetes Insipidus. When kidneys are unable to hold water during filtration, it is known as diabetes insipidus. This also may occur when someone is born without the biochemical receptors required to acknowledge antidiuretic hormone levels. Fortunately, this condition is treatable.   

Symptoms of Kidney Disease 

Kidney diseases are often asymptomatic. In other words, they initially do not show any symptoms at all. In these cases, symptoms are only seen when the disease enters a chronic state. Once the following symptoms become prevalent, medical attention is crucial and can even indicate emergency treatment.

  • Lethargy. Sluggishness or an overall lack of enthusiasm or energy can mean quite possibly anything from a lack of protein in the diet, depression or something more serious. Regardless, it is a sign that something is wrong.
  • Weakness. A feeling of physical weakness indicates malnourishment. The kidneys aren’t properly utilizing provided nutrients. Weakness is also an early sign of anemia.
  • Edema. Edema is general swelling due to excess fluid within body tissue. Even though it can affect any part of the body, edema is typically seen in the hands, feet, and joints. This symptom is a strong link to kidney disease.
  • Metabolic Acidosis. When the kidneys aren’t removing enough acids from the bloodstream, metabolic acidosis occurs. This can lead to coma or even death.
  • Uremia. Urea is one of the primary components in urine. Uremia is when the kidneys aren’t filtering enough urea from the blood, and it can lead to frequent urination, mental confusion, and nausea.
  • Hyperkalemia. High levels of potassium in the bloodstream indicate hyperkalemia. While there are typically no noticeable symptoms, muscle pain and weakness can occur in severe cases.

Generally, most symptoms are the result of the impurities in the blood that would normally be filtered out through healthy kidneys. When symptoms such as these become noticeable, kidney disease can quickly turn into complete kidney failure, which is an immediate medical emergency.   

Treatment of Kidney Disease

Treatment for kidney disease depends on the severity of the condition. Treating a kidney condition can be as simple as a change in diet or getting more exercise. Extreme cases require other measures.

  • Dialysis. When kidneys can no longer filter wastes well enough to keep an individual healthy, blood then needs to be mechanically filtered through renal replacement therapy. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal. About three times a week, patients will visit a dialysis center to have their blood run through an external filter. The filter then returns purified blood back into the body. Peritoneal is the second form of dialysis, and it is required daily. This special process filters blood in the lining of the abdominal cavity, rather than within the kidneys.
  • Transplant. In more serious circumstances, a kidney transplant may be the only option. One new, healthy kidney takes over the work for the two failed kidneys. This requires a positive blood match of the donor and patient.

The kidneys play a vital role in the body so it is important to keep them in good condition. Fruits and vegetables are very beneficial to any diet. A diet Low in sodium is another healthy approach to kidney care. Combining this with proper exercise, kidney diseases can be often prevented.

Come to The Emergency Center

A patient who has experienced a kidney stone knows first-hand just how painful they can be. Despite being largely preventable, kidney stones are quite common—more than 3 million people visit their doctor or the emergency room seeking treatment each year for kidney stones. Contact The Emergency Center for care if you believe you are experiencing symptoms that could indicate kidney stones or a serious problem with your kidneys.

If you have symptoms that appear to be an emergency, do not hesitate to come to The Emergency Center right away.  The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit The Emergency Center’s convenient 24-hour location in San Antonio.


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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644