The second Thursday in March is designated as World Kidney Day, and this year it falls on March 12th. World Kidney Day was developed to raise awareness of the important role kidneys play in our overall health and to spread awareness on chronic kidney disease and treatment. This year’s theme is “Kidney Health For All,” and it focuses on increasing access to important screening, education, and prevention for the highest-risk populations.
Chronic kidney disease generally has no symptoms in the early stages, but as the condition progresses it can be accompanied by kidney pain. There are many diseases or conditions that can cause kidney pain.
- Kidney infections
- Kidney stones
- High blood pressure
- Urinary tract infections
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Malformations in the renal system that can block urine
It is important to note that chronic drug and alcohol abuse are highly damaging to the kidneys as well.
High blood pressure and diabetes are the top two causes of kidney failure, but kidney stones and urinary tract infections are the most common cause of kidney pain. Kidney pain can be different for each person, but in general there are four main types of pain. These types of pain include:
- Sharp, constant, and acute (also called renal colic): Usually caused by kidney stones or blockage in the urinary tract
- Dull and chronic: Trademark pain of high blood pressure, diabetes, and polycystic kidney disease
- Dull and chronic with episodes of sharp pain: Can be present in any of the kidney diseases that causes pain that is sharp and episodic
- Flank pain: Felt in the region of the kidneys, this may or may not be related to kidney diseases, as there are many organs in this area of the body
Treatment of kidney pain is entirely dependent on the presence or absence of underlying causes. In the case of a diagnosed infection, antibiotics are usually prescribed. Common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are often recommended, but any medications filtered through the kidneys are to be avoided.
There are other signs and symptoms of kidney disease other than the above four types of pain that should not be ignored and warrant immediate medical attention. They are:
- Blood in the urine
- Swollen feet or hands
- More frequent nighttime urination
- Painful urination
If other conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure exist, it is especially important to be seen as soon as pain arises.
Treatment of chronic kidney disease depends upon the stage and type of disease. For early stages, treatment may include changes in diet and careful monitoring, but for later stages, dialysis and kidney transplants may be options. Kidney transplants have a good success rate, but the waiting list for a matching organ can be years. Patients can have their families screened to see if there is a match, as a live donor organ has a higher rate of success than an organ donated from a deceased person.
One in ten people will develop chronic kidney disease in their lifetime. Because there is no cure, the best course of action is prevention. Here’s how to decrease your chances of developing chronic kidney disease.
A low-sodium diet aimed at maintaining a healthy weight is the first plan of action. Underlying causes of chronic kidney disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure can often be managed with a healthy diet. Watch out for sneaky sodium amounts in processed food. Aim for more fresh, home-cooked meals to keep sodium intake to about a teaspoon a day. Focus on antioxidant-rich foods like berries, red peppers, cabbage, and onions to help keep your blood clean of free radicals.
People in the U.S. are chronically dehydrated, and that is taxing to the kidneys. Drinking plenty of water helps to flush toxins through the body. It is important to drink between 48 and 64 ounces of water daily, about six to eight cups. No need to increase your intake all at once. Aim to add a glass of water first thing in the morning, before each meal, and just before bed to gradually increase water intake.
Smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys, making it harder for them to do their job. It also increases your chances of developing kidney cancer by 50%. Do your entire body a favor and stop smoking today.
Be careful with OTC medication
Ibuprofen is known to cause kidney damage when taken on a regular basis. The occasional dose is not usually a problem, but if you are taking NSAIDs for chronic pain have your kidney health monitored and checked frequently. You can also check with your doctor to see if there is another appropriate medication that is less stressful on the kidneys.
If you or someone you love suffers from chronic kidney disease, take a moment on March 12th to get involved and take action.
- On March 12th, drink a glass of water: This is a symbolic gesture to remind us to take care of our kidneys
- Join an event: From kidney walks to lectures and demonstrations, there are events all around the globe to raise awareness
- Send in your photos: When you find an event, send your photos into the gallery to be included for next year’s celebration!
If you or someone you love has chronic kidney disease, share your story in the comments.
Image by Tareq Salahuddin via Flickr