Doctor Griffin Rodgers is the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. March is recognized as national kidney month. Below Dr. Rodgers provides more information about chronic kidney disease and its main causes, diabetes and high blood pressure.
WHAT IS KIDNEY DISEASE?
Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter extra water and waste out of your blood and make urine. When kidney disease develops, it means that the kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should.
Kidney disease often gets worse over time and may lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life.
The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can make changes to protect your kidneys.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES OF KIDNEY DISEASE?
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney disease. Because diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease tend to run in families, African Americans and others who may have a greater chance of developing kidney disease should know and share their family health history with family members and their healthcare providers.
SINCE AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE AT GREATER RISK FOR HEALTH PROBLEMS THAT CAN LEAD TO KIDNEY DISEASE, WHAT IS THE NIDDK DOING TO GET THE WORD OUT IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY?
To help spread the word about the risks of kidney disease, the NIDDK partnered with the Chi Eta Phi nursing sorority for the 7th consecutive year and with more than 150 faith organizations to hold “Kidney Sundays” events across the country throughout this month. During these events, we provide kidney information for faith-based communities to share with their members. Chi Eta Phi members help present the materials and provide blood pressure screenings for participants.
Our Kidney Sundays toolkit includes materials that can be used by anyone who wants to conduct a Kidney Sundays event or activity in their community. And Kidney Sundays don’t have to happen only during the month of March. Any Sunday can be a Kidney Sunday.
The NIDDK also developed the Family Reunion Initiative Health Guide to help African American families talk about kidney health. As families plan their reunions – which often happen during the summer months – we hope they will consider incorporating these materials to educate their family members about kidney health.
WHY THE FOCUS ON WOMEN’S KIDNEY HEALTH NOW?
We are focusing on women because kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death for American women and affects more than 16 million women in the United States. Chronic kidney disease occurs in women more often than men.
Because early kidney disease usually has no symptoms, it is sometimes called a “silent disease.” Many people with kidney disease don’t have symptoms until their kidneys are severely damaged and nearing kidney failure. The NIDDK encourages you to make the connection between kidney disease and diabetes and high blood pressure—and to get tested if you have an increased chance of developing kidney disease.
Women can play a unique role in modeling healthy habits for their loved ones. We encourage women – and everyone – to take proactive steps to protect their kidneys, and to help raise awareness. Healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, which are the most common causes of kidney disease. Additionally, if you already have diabetes or high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you better manage these conditions.
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO IF THEY HAVE A GREATER CHANCE OF DEVELOPING KIDNEY DISEASE?
You can help protect yourself and your family from chronic kidney disease and its main causes – diabetes and high blood pressure – by adopting a healthy lifestyle for your entire family. Some steps you can take include:
- Make healthy food choices such as fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Make physical activity part of your routine. Be active for 30 minutes or more on most days.
- Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, work with your health care provider or dietitian to create a realistic weight-loss plan.
- Get enough sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Try to keep the same sleep and wake schedule every day.
- Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake.
- Explore stress-reducing activities, including physical activity, meditation, or yoga.
- Be proactive at your medical appointments. Ask about testing for kidney disease and diabetes, and find out if your blood pressure is in normal range.
HOW CAN YOU GET TESTED FOR KIDNEY DISEASE?
Your health care provider will use a blood test and a urine test to diagnose kidney disease or refer you for testing.
- The blood test tells how well your kidneys are working, or filtering your blood.
- The urine test checks for a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.
If tests show that you have kidney disease, ask your pharmacist to review all your medicines. Let your provider know about all the medicines you take, including the ones you buy without prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), vitamins, and supplements. NSAIDs should be avoided if you have kidney disease. NSAIDs include medicines containing ibuprofen and naproxen.
WHAT ARE SOME PREVENTATIVE OPTIONS FOR KIDNEY DISEASE?
One of the best ways to help protect your kidneys – and be healthier overall is to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Doing so can help prevent and manage high blood pressure and diabetes, and it helps to protect kidney health. Also, it’s important to take all medications prescribed for you, and to aim for a healthy weight, eat right, get enough sleep, and make physical activity part of your routine.
This year, we’re asking women to serve as role models and to encourage healthy lifestyle habits for their friends, families, and communities to help prevent kidney disease.
Again, kidney disease usually has no symptoms, which is why it’s important for people who have diabetes or high blood pressure to get tested. Taking action now can help protect your kidneys.
Dr. Rodgers answers questions from listeners on the Tom Joyner Morning Show:
Q: My kidney is shaped like a horse shoe is that normal?
A: The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are each about the size of a fist and are located on either side of the body partly covered by the rib cage. Occasionally the kidneys develop in an unusual location (closer to the middle of the body) and they may be tilted and touch each other. This condition is sometimes referred to as a horseshoe kidney and may be discovered early in childhood or later in life. We recommend talking with your doctor to assess your kidney health. Also, view an image of the typical kidney shape on NIDDK’s website.
Q: Have y’all heard about 3D kidney printing with the patient’s own good kidney cells that are harvested & grown in a lab? *For patients needing a new kidney.
A: At NIH (or NIDDK) researchers are actively looking to understand the best ways to replace kidney function for people who have progressive kidney disease. While 3-dimensional printing of a kidney scaffold which is populated with kidney cells is a very interesting idea, it is still requires a great deal of work before we could imagine doing this for patients. It is just one of many exciting areas the NIDDK’s (Re)Build a Kidney consortium is considering.
Q: Can the doctor describe the test for kidney disease?
A: Sure. Your doctor may use a blood test and a urine test to check for kidney disease. The blood test checks how well your kidneys are filtering your blood, which is called the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The urine test checks for albumin, which is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.
Q: Dr, I had a cut to my left uter tube during a hysterectomy. Now I get frequent infections (bladder, kidney etc…) should I get tested for kidney disease?
A: I’m sorry to hear that your ureter was punctured during your hysterectomy. I suggest talking with the doctor most familiar with your care to discuss whether he or she recommends testing for kidney disease. Learn more about tests used to diagnose kidney disease.
Q: What role does water play in your kidney function and can it prevent the progression of the disease?
A: Drinking enough water is important for your overall health, but your doctor may suggest limiting fluid intake if you have certain medical conditions. Generally – unless you have kidney failure – you should drink water liberally throughout the day. If you already know you have kidney failure, please do talk with your doctor and/or dietician to find out how much water you should drink to best manage your condition.
Q: Can I get meal plan for this?
A: Good question. What you eat and drink can help you protect your kidneys, reach your blood pressure and blood glucose goals, and prevent or delay health problems caused by kidney disease. Additionally, as your kidney disease gets worse, you may need to make more changes to what you eat and drink. Check out NIDDK’s website for more specifics about dietary adjustments that can help manage kidney disease.
Q: What are symptoms of kidney disease?
A: Early chronic kidney disease usually has no symptoms. For many people, the only way to know if you have kidney disease is to get your kidneys checked with blood and urine tests. However, as kidney disease gets worse, a person may have swelling, called edema. Edema happens when the kidneys can’t get rid of extra fluid and salt. Edema can occur in the legs, feet, or ankles, and less often in the hands or face. Other symptoms of advanced CKD include: chest pain, dry skin, feeling tired, increased or decreased urination, and more. Visit NIDDK’s website for a full list of symptoms.
Q: I have Bi-Lateral stents replaced every 6 months. 18 times they’d been replaced, I’m tired. Do they make stents that last longer than 6 months?
A: I am sorry to hear that you require ureteral stents. They often need replacement because of infection or blockage. I recommend talking with your doctor to assess your stent function and what other options are available for your care.
Q: What food are you not supposed to eat?
If you already have chronic kidney disease, it’s important to pay close attention to food labels. For example, you’ll want to eat the right amount and the right types of protein, and you should choose foods and drinks with less salt, sodium, and phosphorus. A registered dietitian can be very helpful in providing information about the best foods and drinks to help manage your condition. Also visit NIDDK’s website for more information about eating right when you have kidney disease.
Q: What age should you get tested for kidney disease?
A: There is no specific age for testing for chronic kidney disease. You should get checked for kidney disease if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure.
Q: What about diet soda??
A: Consider choosing water or fat-free or low-fat milk instead of soda or juice drinks.
Q: The doctors recently found a mass or lesion on my right kidney. I’m having a CT today, what are some questions I should I ask my PCP?
A: I’m so sorry to hear that you have a mass on your kidney. As you likely know, kidney tumors can be benign or malignant. Unfortunately, I cannot offer specific medical advice, but I do encourage you to visit the National Cancer Institute’s website to learn more about kidney cancer as you prepare for your next doctor’s appointment.
Q: What effect does NSAIDs have on your kidneys?
A: Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can damage your kidneys. Learn more about over-the-counter medicines and your kidneys.
Q: Have a friend that have 3 kidneys and she has high blood pressure. Could that have something to do with her blood pressure?
A: Some people are told they have a duplicated kidney and believe that means they have two. In fact, a duplicated kidney usually means there are two ureters. While it could be found in someone with high blood pressure, it is unlikely that is the cause. Unfortunately, I cannot offer specific medical advice for your friend.
Q: How does sleep affect kidneys?
A: Great question, as I know the connection may not seem obvious. But research has shown that not getting enough sleep may contribute to weight gain. This can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure – the two main causes of chronic kidney disease.
Q: What about drinking a 5th of vodka a week but I drink 500 liters of water a week also, will that hurt my kidneys?
A: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and add extra calories, which can lead to weight gain. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink per day if you are a woman and two drinks per day if you are a man. One drink is:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 5 ounces of liquor.
Q: My creatinine was 1.1 Should I be concerned about that number? How often should you be tested?
A: While I cannot offer specific medical advice, I can tell you that the reference range for normal creatinine levels can vary by age, gender and laboratory. The creatinine result you listed appears to be within normal range for adults, but I recommend that you confirm this with your doctor.
If you have diabetes, get checked for kidney disease every year. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, talk with your doctor about how often you should get tested.
Q: For pregnant women, what are best ways to keep kidneys extra healthy other than just drinking loads of water that our midwife and doctor tell us to do. Thank you
A: Congrats on your impending arrival! Pregnant women should follow the same healthy lifestyle advice to help protect their kidneys as other people. That includes making healthy food choices, getting enough sleep, limiting stress, and more. Read more on NIDDK’s website.
Q: Are there foods that I should avoid after having kidney stones removed?
A: Drinking enough liquid, mainly water, is the most important thing you can do to prevent kidney stones. Unless you have kidney failure, many health care professionals recommend that you drink six to eight, 8-ounce glasses a day. Talk with a health care professional about how much liquid you should drink.
Studies have shown that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can reduce the risk of kidney stones. Learn more about the DASH diet. Also, research has also shown that being overweight increases your risk of kidney stones. A dietitian can help you plan meals to help you lose weight.
Speaking of the importance of drinking more water, the NIDDK-funded Prevention of Urinary Stones with Hydration study is currently recruiting participants to determine whether a program of financial incentives, receiving advice from a health coach, and using a smart water bottle will result in reduced risk of kidney stone recurrence over a two-year period.
Q: Have you heard of and How do you feel about this new bionic kidney research?
A: While NIDDK is not currently involved in bionic kidney research, it is just one of many exciting areas the NIDDK’s (Re)Build a Kidney consortium is considering. The other area that might interest you is the NIDDK Kidney Precision Medicine Project. This project aims to obtain and evaluate human kidney biopsies from participants with acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease, in order to create a kidney tissue atlas, define disease subgroups, and hopefully one day develop novel therapies.
Q: Every time I have sex with my wife I keep having urine tract infection. Can this be related to my kidney?
A: I am sorry to hear of your health issues. There are a variety of factors, including being sexually active and problems in your urinary tract, that make people more prone to urine tract infections (UTIs), also known as bladder infections. I encourage you to talk to your doctor about your reoccurring UTIs and treatments to relieve your symptoms and help prevent complications.
Q: I have severe lower back pain on the right side – is that due to kidney problems? Also I’m losing hair, I’ve been to the doctor & I m being told that nothing is wrong. Is there some test I should request?
A: I’m sorry to hear that. If you have kidney disease, your doctor will use a blood test and a urine test to diagnose you or refer you for testing.
Q: What foods & juices are good for the Kidneys?
A: Good question. Healthy food choices can help you protect your kidneys, reach your blood pressure and blood glucose goals, and prevent or delay health problems caused by kidney disease. Additionally, as your kidney disease gets worse, you may need to make more changes to what you eat and drink. Check out NIDDK’s website for more specifics about dietary adjustments that can help manage kidney disease.
Q: I have hypertension thyroid I take levithyroction med.200mg but it won’t come down Is there something else I can try
A: If you are taking levothyroxine as replacement therapy for thyroid hormone deficiency, I recommend talking to your doctor about blood pressure lowering medication.
Q: My brother had kidney transplant 2wks ago, on dialysis for 6 yr, what is avg time for ” new” kidney to function at maximum ?
A: After a kidney transplant, the donated kidney may start working right away or may take up to a few weeks to make urine. If the new kidney doesn’t start working right away, your brother will need dialysis treatments to filter wastes and extra salt and fluid from your body until it starts working.
Q: What test should I ask for? Are high protein diets bad for kidney health? If so, what do you recommend?
A: Good questions. If you are at risk for kidney disease because of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a family history of kidney failure, your doctor will use a blood test and a urine test to diagnose kidney disease or refer you for testing.
High protein diets are not generally recommended, particularly if you already have kidney disease. A registered dietitian can be very helpful in providing information about the best foods and drinks to help manage your condition. Also visit NIDDK’s website for more information about eating right when you have kidney disease.
Q: Doc what is the hype about apple cider vinegar and hypertension and diabetes?
A: The evidence about dietary supplements helping to reduce hypertension, also called high blood pressure, is limited and sometimes conflicting.
Q: Dr. I drink at least 64 oz of water with with a full lemon squeezed inside. Are there really any kidney benefits to drinking lemon water?
A: Drinking enough liquid, mainly water, is the most important thing you can do to prevent kidney stones. Unless you have kidney failure, you should drink water liberally throughout the day. If you enjoy it with lemon juice, it is more likely you will drink what you need and avoid high sugar beverages. Talk to your doctor about how much liquid you should drink.
Q: What is the life of a kidney in a kidney transplant?
A: There is a very wide range of time that a kidney transplant can last and many individual reasons why a transplant can fail. That said, the most important thing you can do to keep a kidney transplant healthy is to take all your medications exactly as prescribed and follow up regularly with your kidney specialist.
Q: I hate to drink water and I tried to use a lemon to flavor it. I didn’t like it. What can I do to water more drinkable for me? I tried crystal light, but my doctor told me to lay off it.
It can be challenging to adopt healthy lifestyle habits like replacing soda and other sweet drinks with water. Club soda, seltzer and plain sparkling water are good choices to help avoid sugar-containing beverages.
Q: My mom just passed away with chronic kidney disease at the age of 91. Should I be more concerned ? If so what do I need to do? I am a 50-year-old Black female. I do not have high blood pressure or diabetes, but I’m overweight.
A: Sorry to hear about your mom. Kidney disease does tend to run in families, and African-Americans and women have a greater chance of developing kidney disease. Since early kidney disease usually doesn’t have symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting tested. Healthy lifestyle habits can also help protect your kidneys.
Q: if a person has CKD(GFR 29% and Creatine 2.5) can it be reversed or will it definitely lead to a transplant or dialysis?
A: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) often can get worse over time, The damage to your kidneys causes scars and is permanent. But there are steps you can take to protect your kidneys from more damage, such as taking medications as prescribed, following up regularly with your kidney specialist, aiming for a healthy weight, eating right, getting enough sleep, and making physical activity part of your routine.
Q: Is it true that drinking too much water can kill you?
A: If you have advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may need to limit how much you drink because damaged kidneys can’t remove extra fluid.
Q: If my doc just told me I don’t have to take metformin because I have brought my numbers down, what is your suggestion to still taking them sometimes?
A: I’m glad to hear that you’re doing well. I suggest listening to your doctor’s recommendation.
Q: 85% of the Time I have a dull pain on my right side where I believe my kidney is. What is the test I need to have? And who do I get the test from?
A: If you are at risk for kidney disease, you can ask your doctor to use a blood test and a urine test or to refer you for testing. Urine tests can also be used to diagnose other common kidney problems.
Q: I am going through testing on my kidneys right now. The doctor thinks that a prescribed pain medication (Naproxen) that I was taking for my back may have damaged my kidney. I just had a scan and lab work done yesterday. Waiting for the results has me anxious!
A: I’m sorry to hear that, and feeling anxious while you are waiting for your results is perfectly normal. The sooner you know if you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment. We have information on our website.
Q: My girlfriend’s calves and ankles are the size of coffee cans and her feet are swollen, too. Is this a sign of kidney failure?
A: I’m sorry to hear your girlfriend isn’t feeling well. The swelling of ankles or legs is called edema and is often due to heart or kidney issues. I encourage her to talk to her doctor to discuss this.
Q: Is an adult size female kidney slightly measuring 8cm a concern?
A: The size of the kidney depends on your body size, but in general they are about the size of your fists. If you are worried about your kidney health, I encourage you to talk to your doctor to discuss this.
Q: Doctor, my right ankle always feels swollen. What causes this and what’s the remedy?
A: Swelling, also called edema, can be a symptom of a variety of health conditions. I encourage you to talk to your doctor about this.
Follow NIDDK on Twitter and Facebook @NIDDKgov for more tips on making healthy food choices, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. These are all important ways to protect your kidneys from damage, to prevent heart disease, and to improve your overall health.
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