The National Institute for Health and Care Research, estimates that around 6% of people – three million in all - have chronic kidney disease (CKD). At Benenden Hospital, we treat patients with urology-related kidney problems and can refer you to another hospital for kidney disease treatment. Read our article to learn what to look out for and kickstart your kidney’s health.
What role do kidneys play?
Most people have two kidneys, but it’s possible to lead a healthy life with only one. The main job of your kidneys is to cleanse the blood of toxins and turn the waste into urine.
They also produce some essential hormones and keep electrolytes and water content of the body at the right level. The hormones produced include renin which helps control your blood pressure, vitamin D to maintain strong bones and erythropoietin which helps with the production of red blood cells.
There are around one million filtering units, called nephrons, in each kidney which enables all these functions to happen.
What are the causes of kidney disease?
For a lot of people in the UK, improper management of diabetes and high blood pressure will likely have contributed to their kidney disease (a term used to describe any abnormalities of your kidneys). Cardiovascular disease, a family history of kidney disease, being from a minority ethnic group, smoking, being overweight or obese and using ‘hard drugs’ such as cocaine and heroin, can all increase your risk of developing kidney disease.
What are the symptoms of kidney disease?
Almost one in two people with chronic kidney disease are undiagnosed and many do not realise they have the condition because it has few symptoms in the early stages (National Institute for Health and Care Research). Your body is usually able to cope with a significant reduction in kidney function and kidney disease is often only diagnosed at this early stage if a routine test is carried out such a blood or urine test.
A number of symptoms can develop if kidney disease is not found early or it gets worse despite treatment, such as:
- Blood in your pee and needing to pee more (especially at night)
- Headaches and feeling sick
- Tiredness and insomnia
- Weight loss and poor appetite
- Swollen ankles, feet or hands – as a result of water retention
- Itchy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Erectile dysfunction in men
How can I prevent kidney disease?
1. Avoid developing diabetes and hypertension
The best way to prevent kidney disease is to avoid developing late onset diabetes and hypertension. You can do this by maintaining a healthy weight, keeping active and by not smoking.
If you’re being treated for either of these follow your GP, Consultant or Nurse’s advice and if you’re unsure ask questions and check. It’s also worth asking to have your kidney function checked regularly by having tests done on your blood or urine.
2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
A balanced diet will also reduce your risk of developing kidney disease by keeping your heart and body healthy. Your diet should include:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables – aim for at least five portions a day
- Meals that include starchy foods, such as potatoes, wholegrain bread, rice or pasta
- Boil food rather than fried food
- Some beans or pulses, fish, eggs, or meat as a source of protein
- Low levels of saturated fat, salt and sugar
- Fat free or low fat milk or milk products
3. Drink plenty of water (but not too much)
Another way to keep your kidneys healthy is to stay well hydrated. Water is best - about four pints for women and five for men daily, which you need to increase if unwell or in sunny weather.
How can kidney disease be treated?
According to the World Kidney Day charity, between eight and 10% of the adult population have some form of kidney damage, and every year millions die prematurely of complications related to Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD).
Unfortunately, there's no cure for chronic kidney disease (CKD), but treatment can help relieve the symptoms. The treatment you’re recommended will depend on the stage of your CKD. The main treatments are:
- Lifestyle changes – as with preventing kidney disease, eating clean, drinking water and exercising can help you stay as healthy as possible
- Medicine – statins can help to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Medicines can also control associated problems, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Dialysis – treatment to replicate some of the kidney's functions. This is more necessary in a later stage of the disease
- Kidney transplant – this may also be necessary for advanced (stage five) kidney disease
Fast access to urology treatment at Benenden Hospital
Although we can’t treat kidney disease at our hospital, we can treat patients with urology-related kidney problems, including kidney stones.
Urology deals with diseases of the male and female urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) and the male reproductive organs (penis, testes, scrotum and prostate). We offer a range of private urology treatments and services in a comfortable and reassuring environment.
You can book an appointment with one of our Consultants by completing our online booking form or by contacting our Private Patient Team via Livechat or on 01580 363158.
Published on 09 March 2023