Posts Tagged ‘kidneys’

Be Kind To Your Kidneys

February 15th, 2023

There are multiple health observances celebrated in March. One of them is National Kidney Month. Our kidneys play an important role in our overall health and well-being, so we should give them a little love and attention once in a while. Let’s learn more about how your kidneys function to keep you feeling your best and how you can help protect them in this blog.

Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of a computer mouse that sit at the lowest level of your ribcage, one on each side of your spine.

The kidneys are responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of water, salt and minerals — including sodium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium — in your blood. If these substances aren’t in balance, your body’s nerves, muscles and other tissues may not function properly.

The kidneys also remove extra fluid, acid, waste products and drugs from your body. They release hormones that regulate blood pressure; produce a form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones; and control the production of red blood cells.

Adobe stock / Florida Health Care News

A kidney is made up of about a million functional units called nephrons. A nephron consists of a filtering apparatus called a glomerulus, which is made up of tiny blood vessels and is attached to a tubule. Blood enters each glomerulus and is filtered. The remaining fluid passes along the tubule, where chemicals and water are added or removed based on the body’s needs. The fluid that’s left becomes urine, which is passed through the ureters to be stored in the bladder.

The kidneys filter about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours. About 2 quarts are removed from the body as urine. The remaining 198 quarts of fluid are recovered and returned to the body. The kidneys filter all the blood in your body every 30 minutes.

Diseases of the kidneys, specifically chronic kidney disease (CKD), are major causes of illness and death. Fifteen percent of adults in the US are estimated to have CKD, which equates to about 37 million people, or one in seven. Because early CKD generally has no signs or symptoms, most cases are undiagnosed.

When present, warning signs that you may be developing kidney disease may include fatigue, trouble sleeping, itchy skin, swollen feet, muscle cramps, puffiness around your eyes in the morning and frequent urination, particularly at night.

There are also symptoms that may indicate the disease is progressing to kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). That’s when the kidneys lose all ability to filter fluid and waste products from the blood.

Symptoms of the progression to ESRD may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, changes in urine output, fluid retention, anemia, decreased sex drive, sudden rise in potassium levels and inflammation of the pericardium, the fluid-filled sac that surrounds the heart.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. It accounts for about 44 percent of cases. Consistently high blood glucose (sugar) associated with diabetes damages the blood vessels, including in the kidneys. As a result, the kidneys cannot filter blood as efficiently as they should, and excess fluid and waste build up in the body. That can lead to other health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

Other risk factors for chronic kidney disease include having high blood pressure; having a family history of kidney disease; being older; having heart disease; smoking; being obese; being African American, Native American or Asian American; and having an abnormal kidney structure.

Controlling diabetes and high blood pressure are essential to maintaining kidney health. Other ways to keep kidneys healthy and prevent kidney disease include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly (Regular exercise can help with weight loss and reduce blood pressure.)
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy
  • Avoid extra salt (Eating a lot of salty food can disrupt the body’s balance of minerals.)
  • Stay hydrated (Drinking plenty of water helps kidneys remove toxins from the blood.)
  • Limit use of over-the-counter medications (Routinely taking certain OTC medications, such as NSAIDS, can damage kidneys over time. If managing a condition with pain, such as arthritis, talk with a doctor about alternatives to daily pain medication.)

Patti DiPanfilo

Keeping Up With Kidney Health

March 29th, 2021

If you’re like most people, you have two kidneys, the bean-shaped organs about the size of your fist that lie just below the rib cage, one on each side of your spine. March is National Kidney Month, so let’s review what the kidneys do, examine a few common diseases that can affect them, and learn some ways you can help keep them healthy.

Adult and child holding kidney shaped paper, world kidney day, National Organ Donor Day, charity donation concept

The primary job of the kidneys is to filter waste products and excess fluid from your blood, but they perform other functions as well. They also help regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells, control the pH level in your body, and keep your bones healthy. Each of your kidneys is made up of about a million filtering units called nephrons.

But the kidneys are susceptible to damage and disease. The most common condition affecting the kidneys is chronic kidney disease, or CKD. According to the National Kidney Foundation, CKD affects an estimated 37 million people in the US. That’s 15 percent of the adult population, or 1 in 7 individuals. And 90 percent of those who have CKD don’t know they have it.

With CKD, your kidneys become damaged, usually by diabetes or high blood pressure, and can’t function properly. This can cause waste products to build up in your body, which can result in health problems such as anemia and heart disease. Uncontrolled CKD can lead to kidney failure, but early intervention can slow its progression and help preserve kidney function longer.

There are other conditions that can affect the kidneys as well. Glomerulonephritis develops when the tiny clusters of blood vessels in the nephrons called glomeruli become inflamed and damaged due to infection or disease and can’t ’do their job of filtering blood. As a result, your kidneys can’t remove wastes and excess fluid from your body. If it becomes severe, glomerulonephritis can lead to kidney failure.

Polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, is an inherited disorder in which fluid-filled cysts form throughout the kidneys. This causes the kidneys to become enlarged and lose function. In fact, PKD is the fourth leading cause of kidney failure. There may be other health complications as the kidney cysts grow larger, including high blood pressure, anemia, and liver disease.

The kidneys can also be affected by cancer. There are certain factors that increase your risk for kidney cancer, such as being obese or having a family history of the cancer, but it’s caused by inherited or acquired mutations to the genes that control kidney cell growth and reproduction.

These gene mutations cause the kidney cells to grow out of control and form tumors, which interfere with kidney function. Treatment for kidney cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.

Another kidney condition is kidney stones, which are hard deposits of minerals and salts. Kidney stones generally don’t cause symptoms while they’re forming, but can cause severe pain once they move into the ureter, the tube that connects the kidney to your urinary bladder. If you can’t pass the stones in your urine, you’ll need medical treatment to prevent infection.

There are things you can do to help prevent problems with your kidneys. First of all, it’s essential that you achieve and maintain good control over any chronic conditions that can lead to kidney damage and loss of function. These conditions include diabetes and high blood pressure.

Here are some other tips for maintaining kidney health:

•          Eat a diet that’s good for your entire body, one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and low in saturated and trans fats, sugar, and salt.

•          Quit smoking.

•          Maintain a healthy weight.

•          Stay active.

•          Get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

•          Limit your alcohol intake. Men should have no more than two drinks per day; one drink per day for women.

•          Say well-hydrated. Drink fluids throughout the day.

Further, your doctor may also advise you to reduce your protein intake. Your kidneys must work harder to process the wastes that result from protein breakdown.

Follow these tips to prevent kidney disease and keep your kidneys healthy!

Bolstering Bladder Health

November 9th, 2020

November is Bladder Health Awareness Month. Your bladder is a hollow, muscular sac located in your lower abdomen. It temporarily stores the urine made by your kidneys until it is released into a tube called the urethra, which transports the urine out of your body. When empty, the bladder is about the size and shape of a pear.

The muscles of the bladder enable it to stretch to hold urine. A healthy bladder can hold one and a half to two cups of urine during the day and about four cups at night. When urinating, the muscles of the bladder contract, and two valves, called sphincters, open. This allows the urine to flow into the urethra and ultimately out of your body.

There are a number of conditions than can affect your bladder. Among the most common are urinary incontinence, overactive bladder (OAB), cystitis and bladder cancer. We’re going to take a brief look at these four disorders in this blog.

According to the American Urological Society, an estimated one quarter to one-third of adults in the US, both men and women, have urinary incontinence, which is a loss of bladder control. There are several types of urinary incontinence including stress incontinence, urge incontinence, overflow incontinence and mixed incontinence.

With stress incontinence, activities such as coughing, sneezing, heavy lifting, straining when using the bathroom and even laughing put pressure on the bladder and causes it to leak. Urge incontinence occurs when you feel the need to use the bathroom right away, but some urine leaks out before you can get there.

Overflow incontinence occurs when you don’t empty your bladder completely initially, so it overflows with new urine and leaks. Some people have more than one type of incontinence. They may leak urine when coughing or sneezing and leak when they have a strong urge to use the bathroom. In these cases, the condition is called mixed incontinence.

Overactive bladder, or OAB, is a combination of symptoms that may include the need to urinate more frequently, increased urgency and incontinence. You may also feel the need to urinate often at night. An estimated 33 million adults in the US suffer with OAB. About 17 percent of women over 18 years of age have OAB.

Weak pelvic muscles are a common cause of OAB, but it can also be caused by damage to the nerves that send signals from the brain to the bladder telling it to empty at the wrong time. Certain medications, infection, excess weight and an estrogen deficiency, such as what occurs after menopause, are other potential causes.

You can lessen your OAB symptoms by decreasing or eliminating foods and beverages known to worsen symptoms such as tea, coffee, alcohol, chocolate and caffeinated soft drinks. In addition, maintaining bowel regularity, maintaining a healthy weight and stopping smoking can help. There are also techniques for retraining your bladder so it holds and releases urine more efficiently.

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, most often due to a bacterial infection. It is considered a type of urinary tract infection, or UTI. UTIs are one of the most common reasons patients visit their physicians. Estimates based on physician office and emergency department statistics suggest there are about 7 million episodes of acute cystitis each year.

Common symptoms of cystitis include a strong, persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, urinating frequently but only small amounts, blood in the urine, cloudy or strong-smelling urine, pelvic discomfort, a feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen and a low-grade fever. See your doctor immediately if you experience back or side pain, fever and chills, or nausea and vomiting.

Bacterial cystitis is the most common type of cystitis, but there are other types as well. These include interstitial cystitis, drug-induced cystitis, radiation cystitis, foreign-body cystitis, chemical cystitis and cystitis caused by other conditions such as diabetes, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate or spinal cord injury.

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be about 82.400 new cases of bladder cancer in the United States in 2020. That includes 62,100 cases in men and 19,300 in women. And according to the ACS, there will be about 17,980 deaths from bladder cancer in 2020, 13,050 in men and 4,930 in women.

There are three types of bladder cancer that begin in the cells that line your bladder. They are transitional cell carcinomas, which start in the innermost tissue layer of the bladder; squamous cell carcinomas, which start in the thin, flat squamous cells lining the inside of the bladder; and adenocarcinomas, which begin in the glandular cells found in the lining of the bladder.

Blood in the urine is often the first sign of bladder cancer. Other signs and symptoms of bladder cancer include: the need to urinate more often than usual, pain or burning while urinating, an urgent need to urinate even when your bladder isn’t full, trouble urinating or having a weak urine stream and frequent nighttime urination.

Treatment for bladder cancer depends on its stage, which is the extent to which the cancer has grown and spread. Five types of standard treatment are traditionally used for bladder cancer: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. In addition, new therapies are currently being evaluated in clinical trials.

You may not be able to prevent bladder cancer, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and improve the overall health of your bladder. Some things you can do to keep your bladder healthy include: drinking an appropriate amount of water, avoiding constipation, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking.

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