Kidney Failure

Our kidneys take on a huge responsibility of maintaining our bodies in its tip-top condition. They work 24/7, performing many crucial functions that include the following:

  • remove drugs and waste products from the body and discharge them in the form of urine
  • balance the body’s fluids, chemicals and salt in the bloodstream
  • release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • control the production of red blood cells

How Your Kidneys’ Health is Measured

The health of our kidneys is measured through glomerular filtration rate (GFR). This is a measurement of how many millilitres (mL) of filtered fluid flow through the kidneys per minute (min). The GFR of healthy kidneys is above 90 mL/min.

The deterioration or gradual loss of kidney function is known as chronic kidney disease (CKD). There are five stages of CKD.

Stage Description GFR
1 Slight kidney damage with normal GFR 90mL/min or above
2 Slight kidney damage with mild drop in GFR 60mL/min to 89mL/min
3 Moderate drop in GFR 30mL/min to 59mL/min
4 Severe drop in GFR 15mL/min to 29mL/min
5 Kidney failure Less than 15 mL/min

As the GFR drops, the amount of excess fluid, salts, and waste products in your bloodstream increases. This produces severe physical symptoms that affect the health and quality of life. Because CKD may drop gradually over long periods of time, many people will not realize that their health is declining until such time that they are already in the severe stage of chronic kidney disease.

Stage 5 GFR is also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). “End stage” means that the kidneys have reached the “end” of its ability to clean the blood and remove harmful wastes from the body. Meaning, they can no longer work as they should to meet the body’s needs.

Risk Factors and Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Renal or kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to filter the blood efficiently. As the wastes stay longer in the body, it will cause various medical complications, which may eventually become fatal. Physical symptoms include fatigue, nausea, and urination problems. Other symptoms may include difficulty in concentrating, troubled breathing, itchy skin, erectile dysfunction, as well as swollen ankles, feet, and hands.

There are various causes of chronic renal failure. It can be genetic. But the most common ones are diabetes and hypertension. These two conditions can wear out the kidneys as they put in extra effort to the organs in order to remove extreme levels of waste.

Here is an overview of these two common causes:

Diabetes Hypertension
Definition The inability to regulate blood sugar caused by insufficient amounts or ineffective use of insulin, a hormone that convers sugar into energy. Chronic high blood pressure due to too much fluid in the bloodstream or a narrowing of blood vessels
Causes Genetic condition, trauma or lifestyle factors such as poor diet Results from a combination of factors, not a single cause
Risk Factors
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Age
  • Pancreas disease or trauma
  • Family history of hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diet high in salt
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Age
  • Thyroid and adrenal disorders
Kidney stress Elevated blood sugar Increased fluid levels

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