Chronic kidney disease is a serious medical condition that affects 37 million people in the United States, and approximately 10% of the population worldwide are living with some degree of the disease. Because the symptoms often go unnoticed until a more advanced stage, many people with the condition suffer serious health complications – all the way to kidney failure. Those who reach kidney failure will be on dialysis for the rest of their lives or need a kidney transplant.
“Kidney disease happens quietly – and many people don’t experience symptoms or changes in their health as their kidneys slowly lose function. It’s not until it’s almost gone that fluid overload, electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure become apparent,” says Alan Koffron, MD, HPB surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney failure and are so widespread. It’s easy for these conditions to fly under the radar as serious damage is being done, and it’s the reason that more and more people are at risk for this complex medical condition.”
The effects that uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure can have on a person’s kidney function can’t be overstated. While many people don’t consider these conditions to be life-threatening, it’s the slow buildup of damage that’s done over time that causes kidney issues. Dr. Koffron notes that people who do not prioritize their health and adequately control these contributing health conditions are often shocked to learn they have irreversible kidney damage. Kidneys don’t typically hurt, and it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.
PREVENTION IS IMPORTANT
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure, proper management from the beginning is critical. This means controlling your weight through diet and regular exercise, taking medication as prescribed and staying in close contact with your physician until blood pressure and A1c levels have stabilized. Individuals with these conditions should have an annual kidney function test to determine if any damage is occurring.
“When kidney disease starts to become noticeable, you’ll likely experience fatigue, swelling in the legs and ankles, an increase in the volume of urine your body makes, shortness of breath and muscle cramping,” says Dr. Koffron.