Looking after your kidneys
Healthy kidneys function to remove extra water and wastes, help control blood pressure, keep body chemicals in balance, keep bones strong, tell your body to make red blood cells and help children grow normally. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when kidneys are no longer able to clean toxins and waste product from the blood and perform their functions to full capacity. This can happen all of a sudden or over time.
"Renal" means related to the kidneys. "Acute" means sudden. So acute renal failure means the kidneys have failed suddenly, often due to a toxin (a drug allergy or poison) or severe blood loss or trauma. Dialysis is used to clean the blood and give the kidneys a rest. If the cause is treated, the kidneys may be able to recover some or all of their function.
A kidney stone occurs when substances in the urine form crystals. Kidney stones can be large or small. Large ones can damage the kidneys; small ones may be able to pass in the urine. Because crystals have sharp edges, passing even small stones can be very painful. Treatment depends on what the stones are made of.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a phrase that embraces the majority of renal conditions. It can be thought of as a thief that works quietly at night, without creating any disturbance. CKD is quite often found by accident when the doctor carries out tests to investigate something else, say a routine employment medical screening and then discovers signs of kidney disease at an early or moderate stage. If the problem is not discovered, eventually your body will let you know – as well as being ill, the lifestyle you and your family enjoy changes, even your life could be at risk. By this stage it is often too late for any effective preventative measures and a form of renal replacement therapy becomes a life-saving treatment.
It is important to detect potential renal problems at an early stage when a little prevention goes a long way in preventing loss of vital kidney function.
Too often we take our kidneys (like the rest of our bodies) for granted. Because our kidneys work quietly for us in the background, we tend to think this is always so and that our kidneys are indestructible.
Kidneys are vital to your overall health, so it's very important to look after them well. Here are five simple lifestyle steps that can help.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluid will help your kidneys function properly. Your urine should be straw-coloured. If it's any darker that may be a sign of dehydration. During hot weather in the summer, when travelling in hot countries, or when exercising strenuously, you need to drink more water than usual to make up for the fluid lost by sweating, so within reason, drink as much water as you can. Remember, it’s good to have a glass of water at meal times too.
Eat healthily. A balanced diet ensures you get all the minerals and vitamins your body needs. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and grains, such as whole wheat pasta, bread and rice. Don't eat too much salty or fatty food. The key word to healthy eating is balance and can include all the things that you love if you don’t eat any to excess – still enjoy all types of meat, fish, vegetables and grains.
Watch your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked regularly. If your blood pressure is too high it can increase your risk of kidney and heart problems. A simple, quick and painless blood pressure check is available free of charge at your GP surgery and many high street pharmacies. If your blood pressure is higher than it should be, your GP can suggest lifestyle changes or, if necessary, prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure.
Don't smoke or drink too much alcohol. Try to stop smoking completely and limit yourself to two small drinks a day for a man and one small drink a day for a woman. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol raise your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney disease.
Being too heavy raises your blood pressure, which is bad for your kidneys. Try to keep yourself at a healthy weight by keeping active and not overeating.
Aim for regular moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, cycling or swimming, every week.
The symptoms of kidney stones can include:
A persistent ache in the lower back, which is sometimes also felt in the groin – men may have pain in their testicles and scrotum
Periods of intense pain in the back or side of your abdomen, or occasionally in your groin, which may last for minutes or hours
Feeling restless and unable to lie still.
Nausea. Needing to urinate more often than normal.
Pain when you urinate. Blood in your urine – this may be caused by the stone scratching the kidney or urethra.