A brief overview of kidney disease, its causes and treatments

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Kidney disease is a condition where your kidneys are damaged or do not function properly. It gradually causes waste to build up in the body, because the blood cannot be filtered as it should be. This excess of waste and fluid from the blood leads to other health problems, often with a devastating impact on your overall health.

Main causes of kidney disease

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the most common cause for kidney disease is diabetes with high blood pressure coming in a close second. Other risk factors include heart disease, a family history of chronic kidney disease, obesity, previous damage to the kidney, old age and inherited kidney disorders.

Diabetes plays a major role in causing chronic kidney disease because the increased levels of sugar in the blood also damage the vessels in the kidneys. It causes the kidneys to fail as the blood becomes inundated with toxins. Later-stage kidney disease patients will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What is chronic kidney disease?

The most common form of kidney disease is chronic kidney disease which is a long-term condition. Unfortunately, it is not a condition that improves with time as there is no cure. Very high blood pressure puts increased pressure on the glomeruli which are tiny blood vessels in the kidneys where the blood is cleaned. The pressure damages these tiny vessels which causes the kidney function to decline.

Symptoms to look out for

Symptoms for kidney disease can easily go unnoticed till it becomes severe because the signs can be attributed to any number of reasons and are not specific to kidney disease.

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tiredness
  • Poor appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Muscle cramping
  • The need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Dry skin

Signs that the condition is severe can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Fluid retention
  • Anaemia
  • Rise in potassium levels

What is dialysis?

It is a treatment that removes extra waste and fluid from our blood when our kidneys are not able to. It consists of a machine that removes blood from your body filtering it through an ‘artificial kidney’ the dialyzer, and then returning the clean blood to your body. It is usually recommended to undergo treatment three times a week, with each session lasting about 3 to 5 hours. While this is a treatment, it cannot cure kidney disease.

What is kidney transplant?

Late stage kidney disease patients will benefit from a kidney transplant surgery. This replaces the diseased kidney with a healthy kidney from a matching donor. This can either be from a living donor willing to donate an organ or a deceased organ donor. 

Current trends in nephrology

Portable dialysis systems – After the global pandemic focus was placed on portable bloodless dialysis machines with integrated cloud-based monitoring reporting, for home dialysis.

AI implementation – Focus has been placed recently on deep learning solutions to provide quick and valuable insights to improve the treatment and surgeries provided to kidney patients. AI has helped formulate comprehensive databases enabling personalised suggestions and treatments for patients.

Big data and machine learning – Following AI in healthcare machine learning algorithms regarding CKD and other kidney-related issues help to monitor the status of patients through different procedures and different conditions. This information helps medical experts to continuously improve and fine-tune treatments.

Living with kidney disease

Unfortunately, it is not possible to reverse kidney damage, but you can make an effort to slow down the process. Along with proper medical guidance and medication, you can eat healthy and stay physically active to slow down kidney failure. If you are looking for more resources and information regarding kidney disease, treatments and related services, please visit the Western Hospital’s website, one of Sri Lanka’s premier kidney disease treatment hospitals with over 30 years of experience in the field of nephrology.