Introduction

Here we introduce you to the basics around kidneys, kidney disease and problems that you might face.

There are are a variety of reasons why you might be reading this page and we'll try and second guess you:

  1. Firstly you may not be sure whether you have Kidney Disease. If so why not start here, to understand who is at risk and take a simple self-assessment test. NHS guidance is that everyone who is at high risk should have a test for kidney disease every year.
  2. Secondly you may have been diagnosed with kidney disease as a result of routine test (blood pressure, urine or blood test). You may now be asking what next? So start here
  3. You may have received the sudden news that you have rapidly declining kidney heath and you have an upcoming hospital appointment.
  4. or finally that your kidneys have failed and you are suddenly asked to come to the hospital. So what happens next...there's plenty here to help.

Introduction - Kidney Disease Facts

If you haven't jumped to a new section already...Here are some general pointers about Kidney Disease that you may be interested in.

  • Kidney problems are common. By some estimates 1 in 8 people. And the number of people with serious kidney problems, such as kidney disease and kidney cancer, is increasing.
  • Complaints that cause it are on the increase. Amongst these are diabetes, obesity (with high blood pressure) and cancer.
  • Kidney problems can lead to complications with other organs including heart and lungs. These are more likely in early stage disease that continuation to established kidney failure1,2.
  • For many patients making sensible lifestyle changes, and taking precautions with medications and vaccinations can slow down or stop non-age related decline of kidney function. For more read here.

Finally we use the term Kidney Disease widely throughout this website. This is can be a controversial term among doctors3. While it accurately conveys the medical description, it can lead to those diagnosed feeling labeled but with little obvious impact on them. This is particularly true for elderly patient for whom much of any loss of kidney function will be age related. But while the term is argued over, the importance understanding why your kidneys are not working as well as they should and what you can do to help yourself is clear. If you're in any doubt, talk to your doctor or ask to speak to someone else in your situation.

World Kidney Day is a global awareness campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys. They have produced this video aimed at helping you look after your kidneys.

 

Who's at risk of kidney disease?

In many cases, the cause of chronic kidney disease isn’t clear, but it’s more common in people who have:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • vascular disease (narrowing of the kidney’s blood vessels)
  • heart problems
  • a history of other types of kidney problems, such as kidney infections and kidney stones

Kidneys are vital organs that remove excess water and cleanse the blood of toxins. When the kidneys fail, waste products and fluid build up in the body, making you feel unwell, gain weight, become breathless and get swollen hands and feet.

The kidneys also produce hormones that help to control blood pressure, boost the production of red blood cells and help keep bones healthy. This means that if kidney damage is severe it can lead to high blood pressure, anaemia and bone disease.

What can go wrong with the kidneys?

The four main kidney complaints are:

  • kidney infections
  • kidney stones
  • kidney cancer
  • kidney disease

Kidney Infections

These usually happen when bacteria in the bladder travel up to the kidneys. They can cause pain in the lower back and when passing urine, blood in the urine, cloudy and smelly urine, and fever. Kidney infections are more common in women. They can usually be cleared up with a course of antibiotic tablets.

Read more about kidney infections.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are lumps of crystals that can develop in one or both kidneys. They vary from the size of a grain of sand to a golf ball. Small ones generally pass out with the urine. Although they don't cause any serious problems, this can be very painful, especially for men. Bigger stones can get stuck in the kidney or block the ureter (the tube from the kidneys to the bladder). This causes intense pain in the back or side of your abdomen, which may spread into the groin.

Read more about kidney stones.

Kidney Cancer

Cases of kidney cancer account for around 2-3% of all adult cancers. It's steadily increasing in the UK, possibly due to the rise in obesity. Men are almost twice as likely to be affected as women.

Read more about kidney cancer.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease (also known as chronic kidney disease) is a term used by doctors to include any abnormality of the kidneys, even if there is only very slight damage. ‘Chronic’ simply means a condition that does not get completely better.

Most people with kidney disease have a mild form of the disease. However, kidney disease still puts them at a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke. 

A small but significant number (>5%) of people with kidney disease develop life-threatening kidney failure, requiring treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant. As with kidney cancer, kidney disease is on the increase in the UK, probably because of the rise in diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.  

Read more about Kidney Disease.

NEXT-> Advice for New Kidney Patients

Sources.

1. Matsushita K, van der Velde M, Astor BC, et al, for the CKD Prognosis Consortium. Association of estimated glomerular filtration rate and albuminuria with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in general population cohorts: a collaborative meta-analysis. Lancet 2010; 375: 2073–81.
2. Van der Velde M, Matsushita K, Coresh J, et al, for the Chronic Kidney Disease Prognosis Consortium. Lower estimated glomerular filtration rate and higher albuminuria are associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. A collaborative meta-analysis of high-risk population cohorts. Kidney Int 2011; 79: 1341–52.

3. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f4298?tab=responses

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