Last updated date: 21-Aug-2023
Originally Written in English
Kidneys are the most crucial organs in the body since they perform a range of activities. These activities translate into the day to day survival and living everyday healthy life. As such, the health state of your kidneys should be a critical concern. Seeking medical attention and taking appropriate measures are thus the significant ways of boosting kidney functions and health.
Fortunately, nephrology is a field of science that helps with all sorts of kidney disorders and concerns. Nephrologists are also medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing various kidney conditions regardless of the complexity.
What is Nephrology?
Nephrology is a branch of internal medicine that is mainly concerned with studying, diagnosing, and treating diseases affecting the kidneys. It also aims at restoring and preserving the health state of the kidneys. This is to ensure that they perform their day to day functions accordingly.
A human body typically consists of two kidneys located just below the ribcage on both sides of the spine. They play significant roles such as;
- Getting rid of the waste products as well as excess fluid in the blood
- Removing acids produced by certain cells in the body
- Maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body
- Producing hormones that are responsible for stimulating red blood cells synthesis and regulating blood pressure
Types and Causes of Kidney Disorders
The most common types of nephrology diseases are categorized into two groups: acute kidney diseases and chronic kidney diseases. The acute disease occurs when the kidney suddenly stops functioning. This can also be referred to as acute kidney failure or renal injury.
The major causes of acute kidney disease include;
- Insufficient flow of blood towards the kidneys
- Urine accumulation in the kidneys
- Direct damage of the kidneys
On the other hand, the chronic disease occurs when the kidneys fail to function as required for a period of three or more months. It’s mainly caused by high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a condition that increases the pressure on the glomeruli. Glomeruli refer to the small tiny blood vessels located in the kidney; they help with blood filtration. Therefore, too much pressure on the glomeruli blocks them, causing severe damages and hindering kidney functions.
Another leading cause of chronic kidney disease is diabetes. This is a group of diseases that increases blood sugar levels, causing damages to the kidney blood vessels with time. As a result, the kidney won’t effectively filter the blood; hence kidney failure may occur.
Other conditions that cause kidney diseases include;
- Immune system disorders
- Urinary tract infections such as pyelonephritis
- Prolonged viral diseases such as hepatitis B and C or HIV and AIDs
- Inflammation of the glomeruli in the kidneys
- Genetic conditions such as polycystic kidney disease
Other kidney-related conditions under the nephrology field include;
- Kidney stones
- Blood or protein in the urine
- Kidney infections
- Kidney cancer
- Kidney swelling
- Acute and chronic kidney failure
- Renal artery stenosis
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome
- End-stage kidney disease
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Nephrotic kidney disease
The Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Diseases
The signs and symptoms of kidney disease often vary from one person to the other. Some experience minor symptoms, while others may experience severe symptoms.
The most common early signs and symptoms of kidney disease include;
- Extreme fatigue
- Frequent or recurring headaches
- Concentration difficulties
- Sleeping disorders
- Body itchiness
- Traces of blood in the urine
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Swelling of the feet and hands
- Muscle cramping or pain
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Dry, scaly skin
In addition, some of the severe symptoms that could indicate that the kidney disease is advancing include;
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Fluid retention
- Changes in the urine output
- Anemia (caused by reduced red blood cells)
- Increase in the potassium levels
- Reduced sex drive
- Pericardium inflammation
Risk Factors of Developing Kidney Disease
Diabetes is one of the major causes of kidney disease. Therefore, people with diabetes are at a high risk of acquiring either acute or chronic kidney condition. Other factors that may cause kidney disorders include;
- High blood pressure
- Old age
- Genetic issues where other family members have chronic kidney disease
Diagnosis of Kidney Disease
To diagnose kidney disease, nephrologists often begin conducting a physical exam where they ask about the family medical history. They also inquire about the medication you are currently using and the signs or symptoms you are experiencing.
After that, they will run several tests and perform certain procedures for further diagnosis. These tests and procedures include;
Computed tomography (CT) scan and ultrasound: Nephrologists can use CT scan and ultrasound to extract clear images of the kidneys and urinary tract. This enables them to determine if the kidneys are either too small or large. It also shows if there is a presence of tumors or any other structural issue.
Kidney biopsy: With this diagnostic procedure, the doctor extracts a small sample of the kidney tissues. The tissue sample is then further tested to identify the type of disease and the extent of the damage.
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR): This is a diagnostic test that measures the kidneys' functionality. It also helps determine the seriousness and stage of kidney disease.
Blood creatinine test: Creatinine refers to a waste substance released into the bloodstream when the creatine breaks down. Creatine is a molecule that is usually stored in the muscles. Therefore, if the creatinine level in the blood is high, it means that the kidneys are not functioning correctly.
Urine test: The nephrologists can ask for a urine sample to tests kidney disorders like albumin. This is a protein that enters the urine in case the kidneys are damaged.
Kidney Disease Treatment Options
Kidney disease treatment aims to relieve symptoms, prevent the condition from worsening, and reduce complications. It can as well help restore and maintain normal kidney functions and activities.
Generally, certain types of acute kidney disease can be treated with simple treatment forms. However, there is no specific cure for chronic kidney disease. Instead, doctors can opt for various management and control measures.
Depending on the type and underlying cause of the kidney disease, nephrologists will help you decide on a suitable treatment plan. They can as well prescribe certain medications to help slow down the progress of the condition. These drugs also help preserve and enhance the overall functions of the kidneys.
In situations where the condition's cause is controllable and manageable, the disease may sometimes worsen due to various factors. With time, it reaches a point where the kidneys can no longer keep up with waste products independently. To manage such cases, a nephrologist may suggest end-stage kidney disease treatment option, which includes;
- Kidney dialysis
This is a treatment option that involves removing waste products and extra fluid from the body. This is if the kidneys are totally damaged and can no longer work as required.
There are two types of kidney dialysis; it includes hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis involves the use of a special machine to remove waste products and fluids from the blood. On the other hand, peritoneal dialysis involves inserting a catheter (a small tiny tube) into the abdomen. A solution is then passed through the catheter to absorb the fluids and wastes and drain them from the body.
- Kidney transplant
A kidney transplant involves replacing a non-functional or damaged kidney with a new and healthy one from the donor. Usually, the donor can be a diseased or a living person.
Once the procedure is successful, the nephrologists will administer certain drugs you must take for the rest of your life. This is to prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney and causing severe complications.
- Diet and lifestyle changes
Making adjustments to your regular diet and lifestyle is a good remedy for kidney conditions. This is because it helps prevent various underlying causes of the disease. In line with diet and lifestyle changes, nephrologists can also recommend significant options such as;
- Administering insulin injection to control diabetes, which is the major cause of chronic kidney disease
- Cutting off or reducing salt intake
- Avoiding foods with high cholesterol
- Practicing a heart-healthy diet which consists of whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetable, and low-fat dairy products
- Minimizing alcohol consumption
- Increasing physical activities
- Avoiding smoking
- Cutting off weight
Nephrology is generally an important field that deals with a wide range of acute and chronic kidney conditions. It’s also concerned with comprehensive diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of kidney disorders in patients of all ages.
For the best nephrology services and comprehensive health care, you can always consider CloudHospital. This medical platform offers a series of diagnosis and treatment options for patients with kidney disorders. This platform also works with professional nephrology specialists to ensure that you receive the best treatment and live a good life.