What is renal disease, and can it actually kill you?
Undated Photograph of Ensa Cosby, Deceased at age 44 due to renal disease
By: Dr. Karla
Vital Renal disease has been thrown into the spotlight again, following news of Bill Cosby’s daughter Ensa's death due to “renal failure”. Several people have asked me, “what is renal disease”, and “can it kill you”? This article will help to provide those answers, and to raise awareness about a common condition that millions of Americans don’t even realize they have. Renal simply refers to the kidney, and renal failure is the failure of the kidneys to perform their normal function. The kidneys perform several important functions which include keeping minerals in balance, and filtering waste products and extra water from the blood. The kidneys also make hormones that control blood pressure and make red blood cells. Chronic kidney disease or failure is divided into 5 stages based on the filtering capacity of the kidneys (or GFR/Glomerular Filtration Rate). When kidney disease is detected and treated early, this can delay progression to the most severe stage that requires dialysis or a replacement kidney to sustain life. The most important tests for detecting kidney disease involve both a blood and urine test. The blood test for serum creatinine, will allow your Doctor to calculate your GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate). This will provide the percentage of your kidney function. If this number is very reduced, you will then need to follow more frequently with a Nephrologist/Kidney Specialist like myself. The two most common causes of kidney disease include diabetes and high blood pressure. However other important causes include inflammatory and immune diseases which cause glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation), genetic causes such as polycystic kidney diseases, repeated kidney infections, kidney stones, kidney cancer, obesity, pain medications, and kidney obstruction. Since most people do not have symptoms of kidney failure until it is very severe, prevention is extremely important. Some people have a higher risk than others, especially if they have any of the above risk factors or have a family history of kidney disease. By seeing your Doctor for an annual check-up, kidney disease can be detected early and treated when possible. Although 40 million Americans are living with some form of kidney disease, the majority remain unaware. So, in preparation for World Kidney Day on March 8th, ask someone you love to have their kidneys checked for damage. Then, decrease your own risk factors by avoiding smoking and pain medications, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying hydrated. The National Kidney Foundation offers free kidney check-ups around the country. Find a location near you at https://www.kidney.org/keephealthy. If you prefer to contact a Nephrologist from the comfort of your home, Schedule with me directly via telemedicine at https://www.rowedocs.com/dr-karla-vital/. Leave a comment below, and share it if you enjoyed this article. Follow on Twitter @drkarlavital, and on Facebook @vitalhealthandwellness.