The average person knows that he possesses a pair of kidneys as part of his biological make-up, but many people are ignorant of the fact that these organs wield enormous power that could determine whether an individual lives or not.
The truth is that the kidneys can fail, get injured, become infected or ultimately need to be replaced.
Why are kidneys so important to our wellbeing, you may ask. General Practitioner, Dr. Oladele Falade, says kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood, while they are also involved in regulating the blood pressure, as well as the production of red blood cells in the body.
He notes that problems arise when the kidneys, for various reasons, can no longer filter waste products from the blood, causing such to build up in the body.
“When this happens, the individual may start experiencing weakness, shortness of breath, lethargy and confusion,” Falade says.
He adds that it’s not necessarily every individual that experiences any or all of these symptoms that has kidney issue. However, he says it’s one of the reasons physicians always recommend periodic medical tests for people, especially when they reach certain milestones in terms of age.
Sex and the kidneys
As for those who are sexually active, physicians say certain sexually-transmitted infections such as Chlamydia and syphilis can lead to kidney problems.
“If left untreated, Chlamydia can cause serious problems later in life, including the narrowing of the urethra (urethral stricture), such that it becomes difficult to urinate properly, creating pressure which may damage the kidneys.
“Ditto the urinary tract infections. If left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and permanently damage them. Again, syphilis is another sexually-transmitted disease that, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems that can also affect the liver, kidneys and eyes, or cause meningitis,” Falade explains.
He notes that when it comes to your health, the watchword is caution. “Caution in the way you live, and these include your dietary and sexual habits. A devil-may-care attitude that runs against common sense can cost you your health, such as the one involving your kidneys,” the physician enthuses.
Alcohol and the kidneys
Talking about dietary habits, a dietitian, Mrs. Rita Imasuen, says alcohol is never a friend of the kidneys. And while she does not say, outright, that people may not take alcoholic beverage, she laments that many people don’t know when to stop, and that that is why many alcoholics come down with kidney failure in the long run.
Indeed, experts at the online portal, kidney.org, warn that alcohol can cause changes in the function of the kidneys and make them less able to filter the blood.
They say, “In addition to filtering blood, kidneys do many other important jobs. One of these jobs is keeping the right amount of water in the body. Alcohol affects the ability of the kidneys to do this. When alcohol dehydrates (dries out) the body, the drying effect can affect the normal function of cells and organs, including the kidneys.”
Again, physicians warn, alcohol can negatively impact blood pressure, as people who imbibe are very likely to also suffer from high blood pressure.
“High blood pressure is a common cause of kidney disease,” Falade warns. He adds that chronic drinking can also cause liver disease.
“This adds to the kidney’s job, as liver disease impairs the balancing act of keeping the rate of blood flow to your kidneys at a certain level, so that your kidneys can filter your blood well. And clinical presentation shows that most patients who have both liver disease and associated kidney dysfunction are also chronic alcohol users,” the physician notes.
Not a joking matter
Experts say by the time the kidneys of an individual develop problems, so many things — including the patient’s life — are at stake. They warn that “renal insufficiency” begins when the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood.
“The two main forms of renal insufficiency are acute kidney injury, which is often reversible with adequate treatment; and chronic kidney disease, which is often irreversible,” Falade explains.
He notes that many people who have chronic kidney disease don’t even know that they have it because the early signs can be very subtle. “It can take many years to go from chronic kidney disease to kidney failure,” experts say.
Symptoms of kidney disease
Since kidneys make urine, experts say one of the first signs that all may not be well with your kidneys is frequent urination, and the urine may be foamy or bubbly.
“The urine may be more or less, but definitely with unnatural colours, as the urine may contain blood, and the patient may even find it difficult to pass urine!” Falade enthuses.
He says later in the stage of the disease, extra fluid builds up in the body, causing swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face, and hands.
“Gradually, the patient may start experiencing more tiredness (fatigue) all the time, and he may also develop skin rash and severe itching. All these are due to the build-up of wastes in the bloodstream,” the doctor says.
As time goes on, Falade says, even favourite meals start tasting odd, and the patient may also develop foul breath. “He may also become nauseated and experience bouts of vomiting on a regular basis. And since extra fluid can build up in the lungs, the patient may also experience shortness of breath.
“As the blood level falls as a result of anaemia, the patient experiences cold, even in warm weather. Dizziness and light-headedness are also part of the evil bargain, while the patient may also have trouble concentrating,” experts say.
The bottom line: Since ageing increases the risk of inflammation or swelling of the kidneys, researchers say older people are more at risk of some kidney and urinary tract disease.
“This being the case, I advise anyone over the age of 40 to do regular medical check-ups so as to ascertain their state of health and keep diseases at bay,” Falade submits.
SOURCE: THE PUNCH