Our kidneys perform crucial functions in maintaining overall health by filtering waste products from the blood. Recognising the signs of kidney failure is essential for early detection and prompt intervention. Here, we will explore how your body communicates when your kidneys are failing and discuss crucial aspects such as determining the severity, potential causes, diagnostic tests, and steps for kidney protection.
Understanding Kidney Function, Identifying Risk Factors
Understanding kidney function is essential in recognising the signs of failing kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining fluid balance, regulating electrolyte levels, and filtering waste products from the blood. They accomplish these vital functions through a complex network of nephrons, the functional units of the kidneys. When the kidneys fail, their ability to perform these functions becomes compromised.
GFR, or glomerular filtration rate, is a crucial marker of kidney health. GFR measures how effectively the kidneys filter waste from the blood. It is typically estimated using equations that consider gender, age, race, and blood creatinine levels. Based on GFR values, kidney disease is categorised into different stages, ranging from mild (Stage 1) to severe (Stage 5).
Ways your body signal symptoms of kidney failure
1. Changes in Urination Patterns
One of the earliest symptoms of kidney failure is changes in urination patterns. These may include:
► More frequent urination, especially during the night (nocturia).
► Decreased urine output or difficulty in initiating urination.
► Foamy or bubbly urine can indicate excess protein in the urine (proteinuria)
2. Swelling and Fluid Retention
As the kidneys struggle to remove excess fluid from the body, fluid retention can occur, leading to noticeable swelling. Common areas affected by swelling include the hands, feet, ankles, and face. Persistent puffiness or swelling not subside with rest or elevation may indicate kidney problems.
3. Fatigue and Weakness
Kidney failure can result in a build-up of toxins and waste products in the body, leading to general fatigue and weakness. Feeling constantly tired, even after ample rest, can indicate that your kidneys are not functioning optimally.
4. Changes in Urine Colour and Odour
Abnormal urine colour and odour can be a symptom of kidney failure. The following changes may occur:
► Dark-coloured urine may indicate the presence of blood or concentrated waste products in the urine.
► Cloudy or murky urine may suggest the presence of infections or excess particles in the urine.
► Strong or foul-smelling urine can be a sign of urinary tract infections or other kidney-related issues.
5. Persistent Back Pain
Kidney problems can cause persistent pain in the lower back, often on one side. The pain can be achingly dull or piercingly intense. Not all kidney-related back pain is located in the lower back, as some individuals may experience pain in the upper back or sides.
6. Nausea, Vomiting, and Loss of Appetite
As waste products accumulate in the body, it can lead to feelings of nausea, frequent vomiting, and a loss of appetite. These symptoms may result from the build-up of toxins affecting the digestive system.
7. Shortness of Breath and Difficulty Concentrating
When the kidneys are compromised, the body may experience a shortage of red blood cells, leading to anaemia. Anaemia can cause various symptoms, including shortness of breath, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating.
What are the Symptoms and Causes?
Kidney failure can have various causes. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is often associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, glomerulonephritis, and polycystic kidney disease. Acute kidney injury (AKI) can result from severe infections, dehydration, medications, or kidney trauma. Other factors, such as autoimmune disorders, kidney stones, urinary tract obstructions, and genetic factors, can also contribute to kidney dysfunction.
Testing for Kidney Disease
Testing kidney function is crucial for diagnosis and determining the underlying cause. Blood and urine tests play a vital role in assessing kidney function. Blood tests measure creatinine, urea, and electrolyte levels, while urine tests detect protein, blood, and other abnormalities. Imaging techniques like ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI may be used to visualise the kidneys. In certain instances, a kidney biopsy may be needed to obtain tissue samples for analysis.
Protecting Your Kidneys
Staying aware of the signals your body gives when there is an issue with your kidneys can help you take preventive measures. Upon noticing any symptoms related to kidney failure, it is vital to visit a healthcare professional immediately. Adapting one’s lifestyle according to medical advice and observing regular monitoring procedures can ensure good kidney health and bolster overall wellness. Taking care of the kidneys today paves the way for sounder physical well-being in the long run.