The kidneys are very important organs in our body that needs utmost care. In ancient times the kidneys were even viewed as the seat of feelings, conscience, and yearnings and the source of morality and ethical activity. While we know now that kidneys have no direct role in shaping our ethics, emotions and personality, these two bean-shaped organs are nonetheless vital to our well-being. Why?
The kidney is a remarkably intricate organ that acts as the filter system of our body. Just as important, the kidneys also work to keep the whole body in a state of chemical balance. The kidneys regulate the substances, helpful and harmful, that float around in the body and keeps them within very tight parameters so the body can function as a well-oiled machine.
1) The kidneys regulate water - It's important that your body contains the correct amount of water, and this is one of the key functions of the kidneys. They regulate the amount of water and salts in your body, filtering out any excess water and helping to maintain your body's chemical balance.
2) The kidneys remove waste - Yes that's right, your kidneys make your urine. It may not be pleasant to think about, but your kidneys are vital for removing waste and toxins from your body. They also make sure you keep hold of more useful substances such as glucose and protein.
3) Your kidneys control your blood pressure - By carefully controlling the level of minerals such as sodium and potassium in the blood stream, the kidneys help to control your blood pressure and prevent it from getting too high. Kidneys also produce red blood cells and help keep your bones healthy.
4) Kidney damage can be fatal - and there is no cure - Approximately 1 in 10 adults have some form of kidney damage, and every year millions die prematurely of complications related to Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD). CKD is a gradual loss of kidney function over time, and is most common in older people and women. Unfortunately, it's not easy to detect as most people don't show any symptoms until they lose up to 90% of their kidney function.
What's more, there is no cure. Although treatment such as dialysis can slow the progression of the disease and prevent more serious conditions from developing.
What happens if our kidneys fail?
Complete and irreversible kidney failure is sometimes called end-stage renal disease, or ESRD. If your kidneys stop working completely, your body fills with extra water and waste products. This condition is called uremia. Your hands or feet may swell. You will feel tired and weak because your body needs clean blood to function properly.
Untreated uremia may lead to seizures or coma and will ultimately result in death. If your kidneys stop working completely, you will need to undergo dialysis or kidney transplant.
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Disease?
You're more tired, have less energy or are having trouble concentrating.A severe decrease in kidney function can lead to a buildup of toxins and impurities in the blood. This can cause people to feel tired, weak and can make it hard to concentrate. Another complication of kidney disease is anemia, which can cause weakness and fatigue.
You're having trouble sleeping.When the kidneys aren't filtering properly, toxins stay in the blood rather than leaving the body through the urine. This can make it difficult to sleep. There is also a link between obesity and chronic kidney disease.
You have dry and itchy skin.Healthy kidneys do many important jobs. They remove wastes and extra fluid from your body, help make red blood cells, help keep bones strong and work to maintain the right amount of minerals in your blood. Dry and itchy skin can be a sign of the mineral and bone disease that often accompanies advanced kidney disease when the kidneys are no longer able to keep the right balance of minerals and nutrients in your blood.
You feel the need to urinate more often.If you feel the need to urinate more often, especially at night, this can be a sign of kidney disease. When the kidneys filters are damaged, it can cause an increase in the urge to urinate. Sometimes this can also be a sign of a urinary infection or enlarged prostate in men.
You see blood in your urine.Healthy kidneys typically keep the blood cells in the body when filtering wastes from the blood to create urine, but when the kidney's filters have been damaged, these blood cells can start to "leak" out into the urine. In addition to signaling kidney disease, blood in the urine can be indicative of tumors, kidney stones or an infection.
Your urine is foamy.Excessive bubbles in the urine – especially those that require you to flush several times before they go away—indicate protein in the urine. This foam may look like the foam you see when scrambling eggs, as the common protein found in urine, albumin, is the same protein that is found in eggs.
You're experiencing persistent puffiness around your eyes.Protein in the urine is an early sign that the kidneys’ filters have been damaged, allowing the protein to leak into the urine. This puffiness around your eyes can be due to the fact that your kidneys are leaking a large amount of protein in the urine, rather than keeping it in the body.
Your ankles and feet are swollen.Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium retention, causing swelling in your feet and ankles. Swelling in the lower extremities can also be a sign of heart disease, liver disease and chronic leg vein problems.
You have a poor appetite.This is a very general symptom, but a buildup of toxins resulting from reduced kidney function can be one of the causes.
Your muscles are cramping.Electrolyte imbalances can result from impaired kidney function. For example, low calcium levels and poorly controlled phosphorus may contribute to muscle cramping.
With the above-mentioned kidney problem symptoms, it is always best to detect kidney problems early. Why wait for these symptoms to appear? We can check as early as now if our kidneys are working just fine. The easiest and convenient way to check is thru a dipstick test or commonly known as the 10 Parameter test strips which uses a thin plastic strip or a dipstick treated with chemicals. It’s dipped into your urine, and the chemicals on the stick react and change color if levels are above normal. Things the dipstick test can check for include:
- Acidity, or pH. If the acid is abnormal, you could have kidney stones, a urinary tract infection (UTI), or another condition.
- Protein. This can be a sign your kidneys aren’t working right. Kidneys filter waste products out of your blood.
- Glucose. A high sugar content is a marker for diabetes.
- White blood cells. These are a sign of infection or inflammation, either in the kidneys or anywhere else along your urinary tract.
- Nitrites. This means that there is an infection with certain kinds of bacteria.
- Bilirubin. If this waste product, which is normally eliminated by your liver, shows up, it may mean your liver isn’t working properly.
- Blood in your urine. Sometimes this is a sign of infections or certain illnesses.
Our urine can indeed tell a lot about our health. It is one way of to find certain illnesses in their earlier stage. Having these 10 Parameter Urinalysis Test strips can be handy to allow us to self-monitor our health. It always helps to be conscious and self-aware about our kidney’s health.
What can we do for our kidneys?
Kidney diseases are silent killers, which can largely affect your quality of life. There are several ways in reducing risk of developing kidney disease.
1. Keep fit, be active - This can help to maintain an ideal body weight, reduce your blood pressure and the risk of Chronic Kidney Disease.
2. Eat a healthy diet - This can help to maintain an ideal body weight, reduce your blood pressure, prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with Chronic Kidney Disease.
3. Reduce your salt intake. The recommended sodium intake is 5-6 grams of salt per day. This includes the salt already in your foods (around a teaspoon). To reduce your salt intake, try and limit the amount of processed and restaurant food and do not add salt to food. It will be easier to control your salt intake if you prepare the food yourself with fresh ingredients.
4. Check and control your blood sugar - About half of people who have diabetes do not know they have diabetes. Therefore, you need to check your blood sugar level as part of your general body checkup. This is especially important for those who are approaching middle age or older. About half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage; but this can be prevented/ limited if the diabetes is well controlled. Check your kidney function regularly with blood and urine tests.
5. Check and control your blood pressure- About half of people who have high blood pressure do not know they have high blood pressure. Therefore, you need to check your blood pressure as part of your general body checkup. This is especially important for those who are approaching middle age or older. High blood pressure can damage your kidneys. This is especially likely when associated with other factors like diabetes, high cholesterol and Cardio-Vascular Diseases. The risk can be reduced with good control of blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is persistently elevated above the normal range (especially if you are a young person), you should consult your doctor to discuss the risks, the need for lifestyle modification and medication treatment.
6. Take appropriate fluid intake - The right level of fluid intake for any individual depends on many factors including exercise, climate, health conditions, pregnancy and breastfeeding. Normally this means 8 cups, approximately 2 liters (quarts) per day for a healthy person in a comfortable climate condition.
This needs to be adjusted when in severe climate condition. Your fluid intake may need to be adjusted if you have kidney or heart or liver disease. Consult your doctor on the appropriate fluid intake for your condition.
7. Don’t smoke - Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it can decrease their ability to function normally. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 per cent. Don’t take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory/pain-killer pills regularly.
8. Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more of the ‘high risk’ factors
- you have diabetes
- you have hypertension
- you are obese
- you have a family history of kidney disease
The kidneys play a vital role in our body, therefore the need to take care of it. We must remember that kidney disease, aside from fatal, cannot be cured. Therefore, as early as now, we must prevent and take appropriate measures to reduce risks of kidney problems. One way to know or detect early kidney problems is the use of urine testing dipsticks. Aside from convenience, dipstick reading is relatively easy and you can have the results in minutes. Though, we advise to see a doctor for a more extensive test, if needed. Self-care should be a priority; nothing is more important than our health. Cliché as it might be, Prevention is always better than cure.