Care for your kidneys

Care for your kidneys

They help in regulating blood pressure. They are also involved in the regulation of the production of red blood cells. They have specific sensors which detect the falling levels of oxygen in blood, which, when activated, release a hormone known as erythropoietin.
This hormone stimulates the body to produce more blood. Kidneys filter the waste and excess fluids from the body. How effectively they filter 180 litres of blood in 24 hours is a marvellous example of their working capacity. The proper functioning of kidneys is important for the normal growth of bones as they help in production of an active form of vitamin D.

The ratio of the number of nephrologists as compared to kidney disease prevalence is very low in India, and that is a very good reason as to why we need to protect our kidneys! Moreover, most of the expert centres are concentrated in the big cities. The cost of dialysis is also exorbitant. People with kidney failure are ‘immunocompromised’ and hence prone to infection and recurrent hospitalisation, the treatment of which adds to the cost of care.

Like any other organ of the body, the kidneys are also prone to problems. Conditions such as increase in blood sugar (diabetes), increase in blood pressure (hypertension), stones and infections are the major causes of damage to the kidneys.

Unregulated consumption of pain killers, toxic chemicals in water or spurious medicines result in conditions that can result in kidney failure over a period of time.

Most of the time, the patient is asymptomatic. A few may report swelling in the ankles and feet, lethargy and fatigue, vomiting, etc. Proper and periodic screening can help detect early signs of trouble.

If kidney failure occurs in hours and days, it is called ‘acute’ kidney failure, but if it occurs over a period of time which can be months, then it is known as ‘chronic’ kidney failure. Most of the time, it has been seen that diabetes and hypertension are the two major causes of chronic kidney failure.

Kidney disease develops slowly and the patient might not know the onset till he develops complications. Most people believe that passing a good amount of urine is an indicator of healthy kidney function. But this belief is wrong and it is often the last stage of kidney failure that urine ceases.  

Other common causes of kidney failure are smoking, infections, malnutrition, long-term drug abuse and possibly environmental pollution. Infections causing kidney disease such as Hepatitis B & C and HIV can be prevented by safe sex practices and policy regarding usage of blood and blood products. Throat and skin infections can lead to kidney problems and hence such infections, though seemingly minor, should not be neglected.
Some herbal products used as food can also cause kidney and liver damage.

Top tips

- Go for a regular health check-up for diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Seek immediate medical attention, even for problems which can appear minor.
- Follow a balanced diet, avoid smoking and drinking and practise safe sex.

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