Kidney disease is a fairly common, yet troubling, disease because its symptoms usually do not appear until the disease is well along. There are few early warning signs, so if you are at a higher risk for kidney disease, it's important to know what to look for. Kidney disease, if untreated, can lead to kidney failure, which can ultimately be fatal. Keep up with your physicals, including blood work and urinalysis.
The kidneys are two fist-sized filtering systems near the back on either side of the spine. The kidneys filter waste and excess water from the bloodstream and start the process of converting those waste products and water into urine. When kidney disease strikes, those organs do not function efficiently, resulting in chemical imbalances in the bloodstream, as well as too much or too little water in the body, which affects cellular health.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can linger for years before kidney failure develops. But along the way there can be signs, especially changes in urination. If you notice that you're getting up at night to urinate more often, or if you find yourself urinating more or less than you used to, you could be experiencing kidney dysfunction. Pay attention to changes in your urine. Is it pale all the time, or is it foamier? If any of these changes develop, tell your doctor immediately.
Because the kidneys play a key role in maintaining the chemical balance in the bloodstream, manage your blood pressure and have your blood work done with every annual physical. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or any form of heart disease, you're at higher risk for kidney problems. Have your kidney health evaluated, even if you don't have outward signs of kidney dysfunction.
If your failing kidneys aren't removing fluid from the body efficiently, fluid will be retained, especially in the feet and ankles, legs, hands and face. If you notice swelling in any area of the body, have it evaluated promptly. If kidney disease is diagnosed at this point, it may be advanced, but it still can be treated and managed.
Kidney dysfunction can result in a chemical imbalance that affects the way foods taste. You may have bad breath and an ammonia or metallic taste in your mouth. You may also feel fatigued or short of breath (because of fluid in the lungs).
Kidney disease is a condition that affects an estimated 26 million Americans, or about one in nine adults. Many others are at risk of developing the condition. If you're at high risk for diabetes and/or heart disease, you're at risk for some kidney dysfunction.