How your kidneys work – “Each kidney contains tiny units called nephrons, which are tiny filters attached to tiny tubes,” Dr. McKillop said. “Water and waste products are separated by the filters and flow into the tubes. The wastes are concentrated into urine, which is stored in the bladder until you urinate.”
Kidney disease – “Kidney disease describes a number of diseases and disorders that can impair kidney function,” Dr. McKillop explained. “Chronic kidney disease is a decreased level of kidney function that lasts for three months or more. Rapid kidney failure, also known as acute kidney failure, can result from injury, infection or other causes.”
Causes – “The two most common causes are diabetes and high blood pressure,” he said. “Some forms of kidney disease are inherited and others acquired.”
Risk factors and symptoms – “Kidney disease can destroy most of the kidney function before causing any symptoms,” said Dr. McKillop. “Those at risk of developing it, such as people with diabetes, high blood pressure, blood vessel diseases or close relatives of someone with inherited kidney disease, should be evaluated regularly.” If you are over age 50, or fall into any of the risk categories, ask your doctor for a blood test to assess your kidney function.
Treatment – “The main treatments for early-stage kidney disease are diet and medication,” Dr. McKillop said. “During the later stages of the disease, the patient will need dialysis or a kidney transplant, combined with medication and a healthy diet.”
Learn more – “If you have questions about the health of your kidneys, ask your family physician,” advises Dr. McKillop. “The Kidney Foundation of Canada website at www.kidney.ca is also an excellent source of information.”