8 Common Kidney Problems: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Monday June 21, 2021

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You wouldn’t last very long without your kidneys, but many folks pay relatively little attention to these filtering organs — until trouble strikes. Then, you have a medical emergency on your hands. 

However, you can successfully treat many disorders and keep them from progressing — if you know what to watch for. Here are eight common kidney problems, along with their symptoms, causes and treatments. 

1. Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria enter your ureters. They can cause considerable lower abdominal pain and cause you to run to the bathroom nonstop. 

When left untreated, these pathogens can travel up your ureters to your kidneys, causing further trouble. You might develop nausea and vomiting, fever and fatigue. You need to seek medical attention — prescription antibiotics can clear up the germs before causing lasting organ damage. 

2. Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) refers to lasting damage to your kidneys that can worsen over time. Although anyone can get CKD, it occurs more frequently in people who smoke or have diabetes or high blood pressure. 

When CKD advances to end-stage renal disease, you need to go on dialysis or have a kidney transplant to live. It pays to take care of these organs now by doing the following: 

  • Quitting smoking: You can find free resources to help you. 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: While this is also easier said than done, exercising 30 minutes daily and eating a low-calorie, plant-based diet help. 
  • Reduce your salt intake: This substance promotes kidney stones — more on that disorder below. 
  • See your doctor for checkups: Fortunately, doctors can assess your kidney function by looking at your urine and blood test results. 

3. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones come in four varieties, but all refer to crystals that need to pass through this organ and your ureters to exit your body. They can cause considerable pain and, in rare instances, the damage takes surgery to correct. 

Your kidneys filter toxins from your body, including excess sodium. Please strive to reduce your salt intake if kidney stones run in your family. Some doctors recommend eating a diet that avoids foods high in oxalates, although some of the items, like spinach, possess significant health benefits. 

One thing anyone can do to lower their risk of stones is to stay hydrated. When you lack water, your kidneys have to work harder to excrete toxins, building up and promoting crystal formation. 

4. Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis — it is a mouthful to pronounce — damages the glomeruli or tiny filters inside your kidneys. It can arise from kidney infections or some autoimmune disorders. 

Symptoms of glomerulonephritis include blood in your urine, which may make your pee look brown or red. You may also experience a rash, fatigue, nausea, going to the bathroom more or less frequently and swelling in your legs or face. 

Sometimes, the condition is mild and clears up independently. Other times, you may need medication or plasmapheresis to remove protein buildup from your blood. Left untreated, this common kidney problem can lead to failure. 

5. Polycystic Kidney Disease

If you thought you were free from polycystic anything because you were born with an XY set of chromosomes, think again. Polycystic kidney disease can strike both men and women, although females tend to get larger cysts than their male counterparts. Interestingly enough, though, male patients are more likely to receive dialysis — the disorder tends to advance more rapidly in that gender. 

Treatment for polycystic kidney disease often entails lifestyle changes like those recommended above to stave off CKD. While physicians sometimes prescribe Tolvaptan for aggressive cases, the drug can cause severe liver injury. 

6. Diabetic Nephropathy

If you have diabetes, you run an elevated risk of kidney failure. Diabetic nephropathy might represent one step on the road to the dialysis machine if you don’t get your blood sugar under control. 

If you are diagnosed with Type 1 or 2 diabetes, please take your medications as your doctor prescribes them. Exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and alcohol. Control your blood sugar by eating a healthy diet low in processed foods and added sweet stuff. 

7. Hepatitis C 

Hepatitis C is a recognized cause of progression to kidney failure. While in the past, many people contracted the disease through shared needles, it isn’t the only mode of transmission. Millions of Americans now live with the virus, often without knowing it. 

Today’s antiviral drugs do a better job of treating this condition, but the degree of damage depends on how early you catch it. A blood test can detect antibodies, so make an appointment with your physician or request one at your next annual physical.

8. Border-Crossers’ Nephropathy

People who have never traveled to desert regions don’t often understand the hardships faced by border crossers. Many migrants travel for days without food — or water. While you can last a while without a meal, dry conditions can dehydrate you in no time. 

Border-crossers’ nephropathy only received its name in recent years, as it frequently occurs in said populations. Of 42 patients recently presenting after only 4.2 days in the desert, all suffered acute kidney injury, with 25 advancing to stage three, requiring dialysis. While the condition can occur in anyone who spends prolonged times in the desert absent sufficient water, it has political and economic ramifications on both sides of the border. 

Recognize the Signs of These 8 Common Kidney Problems

Now that you recognize the signs of these eight common kidney problems, please note the signs of potential trouble. The earlier you seek treatment, the better your chances of a cure. To help you continue on a path to proper kidney health, here are nine tips on preventing kidney failure.

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