The kidneys play an essential role in keeping your body running smoothly. But with one in three Australians at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease, how can you ensure you’re taking the best care of one of the most important organs in the body? Ahead of World Kidney Day, we look at the importance of kidney's to your overall health and how you can protect yourself from kidney disease.
What do the kidneys actually do?
The most crucial role kidneys play in the body is acting as your very own filtering system. When your body processes food to use for energy, some waste products are left in the blood, such as urea and ammonium. These chemicals can be toxic in high concentrations, so your kidneys filter the blood and send the waste products to your bladder for you to expel as urine.
In addition to filtering the blood, your kidneys are also responsible for regulating blood pressure, controlling the production of red blood cells, and producing vitamin D for strong, healthy bones.
Safe to say, they’re pretty important organs. So it’s even more important you look after them. But what happens if you don’t?
Kidney disease: what types are there?
There are many types of kidney disease, all of which occur when the blood filtering system is unable to do its job properly. Kidney disease is classified broadly into two categories – acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease.
Acute kidney injury is a rapid loss of kidney function, which means excessive waste products build up in the blood. Acute kidney injury is usually the result of dehydration, blood loss, infection or kidney stones. It is often reversible with time, but if it is severe enough it can result in permanent damage.
Chronic kidney disease is more common and is a gradual loss of kidney function over a long period of time – usually three months or more. In cases where it progresses to end-stage kidney disease, some patients need dialysis to survive.
Kidney disease symptoms to watch out for
In the case of acute kidney injury, your impaired kidney function is likely to result in symptoms like a small volume of urine, fatigue, nausea or limb swelling.
Chronic kidney disease, however, is often known as a silent disease, as many people lose up to 90 per cent of their kidney function before symptoms present. When they do present many of the symptoms are quite general. However, some things to look out for include:
- high blood pressure
- burning feeling or pain when passing urine
- changes in how often or how much urine you’re passing
- changes in the appearance of your urine, such as frothiness or blood
- puffy ankles and legs, or even around your eyes
- pain in the back (below the ribs- where your kidneys are)
- general symptoms like tiredness, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, headaches or breathlessness.