Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: Kidneys

    March 30, 2016

    Take Charge of Your Health!

    What do your kidneys do?

    Your kidneys filter extra water and waste out of your blood and make urine. Your kidneys also help control blood pressure so that your body can stay healthy.

    What is chronic kidney disease?

    Chronic kidney disease is when the kidneys stop working as well as they should. Anyone can develop kidney disease, regardless of age or race. But the two leading causes of kidney disease and kidney failure in the United States are diabetes and high blood pressure.

    Treating these diseases early can slow down the damage to the kidneys and keep the kidneys working as filters for your blood.

    What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

    At first, chronic (meaning ongoing or hard to cure) kidney disease causes no symptoms. As the disease gets worse, it can:

    • Make your feet, ankles, or legs swell (doctors call this swelling "edema")
    • Give you high blood pressure
    • Make you very tired
    • Damage your bones (weaker, brittle)
    Is there anything I can do to keep my kidneys from getting worse if I have chronic kidney disease?

    Yes, you can protect your kidneys by:

    • Taking blood pressure and other medicines every day as prescribed by your doctor. In particular, your doctor may prescribe a medicine called an “ACE inhibitor,” even if you do not have high blood pressure, because it protects the kidneys.
    • Keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range, if you have diabetes.
    • Changing your diet to include less salt and less protein, as recommended by your doctor.
    • Avoiding over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (sample brand name: Aleve), medicines known as "nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs" or NSAIDs.
    • Check with your doctor, nurse, or kidney specialist before starting any new medicines.
    • Eat healthy (choose and prepare foods with less salt/sodium) and learn how to read your food labels.
    • Be active — exercise regularly.
    • Get your blood checked for kidney disease.
    What happens if my kidneys stop working completely?

    If your kidneys stop working completely, you will need a special treatment that would do the work of your kidneys. Your doctor can help you choose which one of the following is right for you:

    • You can have kidney transplant surgery.
      That way, the new kidney can do the job of your own kidneys. If you have a kidney transplant, you will need to take medicines for the rest of your life to keep your body from reacting badly to the new kidney. (You only need one kidney to live.)
    • You can have kidney transplant surgery.
      You can have your blood filtered by a machine. This treatment is called "hemodialysis," but many people call it just "dialysis." If you choose this approach, you will need to be hooked up to the machine at least 3 times a week for a few hours for the rest of your life. Before you start, you will also need to have surgery to prepare a blood vessel for attachment to the machine.
    • You can have kidney transplant surgery.
      You can learn to pipe a special fluid in and out of your belly every day. This treatment is called "peritoneal dialysis." If you choose this type of dialysis, you will need surgery to have a tube implanted in your belly. Then you will have to learn how to pipe the fluid in and out through that tube.
    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:

    Work with your doctor to protect yourself from getting kidney disease. If you have kidney disease, you CAN prevent it from getting worse.

    To learn more:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

    National Kidney Foundation

    Is My Child at Risk for Kidney Disease?

    High Blood Pressure and Children: What Parents Need to Know

    Sources: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and National Kidney Foundation (NKF)

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