Kidney Disease

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At North Texas Kidney Consultants, we are dedicated to managing patients with a variety of kidney diseases. Most people are unaware that they may even have a problem. According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are several facts about kidney disease that we feel you should be aware of:

Facts About Kidney Disease:

  1. More than 20 million Americans – one in nine adults – have chronic kidney disease. More than 20 million others are at increased risk. Kidney disease is one of the costliest illnesses in the U.S. today.
  2. More than 378,000 Americans suffer from chronic kidney failure and need an artificial kidney machine to stay alive.
  3. Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney failure; diabetes accounts for approximately 44 percent of new cases of chronic kidney failure in the United States each year.
  4. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled high blood pressure is the second leading cause of chronic kidney failure in the United States; it accounts for about 35 percent of all cases.
  5. More than 50,000 patients are waiting for kidney transplants, but only about 14,000 will receive transplants this year because of a shortage of suitable organ donors.
  6. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate problems) affect 50 percent of men by ages 51 to 60 and more than 90 percent of men over 80.
  7. One million Americans are treated each year for kidney stones. The majority of these cases occur in people between 20 and 40 years of age. Kidney stones are more common in men, who account for about four out of five cases.
  8. Kidney and urinary tract diseases continue to be one of the major causes of work-loss among men and women. Each year, over 1 million physician visits and more than 300,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. resulted from kidney stones.
  9. Urinary incontinence, the loss of urine control caused by illness, medications or aging, affects about 13 million Americans. Although effective treatments are available, only about 10 percent of those who suffer from urinary incontinence seek medical care for the problem, often because of embarrassment.
  10. Of the single kidney transplants performed in 2002, 6,554 were from living donors and 6,185 were from non-living donors. In 2002, 12,739 people with kidney disease were given a “Gift of Life” by receiving a transplant.

Frequently Asked Questions

When you are evaluated by one of our physicians we encourage you to ask them questions. Being as involved as you can in your medical care is always to your advantage. Some of the questions we hear most often at NTKC are:

What are the risk factors for chronic kidney disease (CKD)?
Diabetes, hypertension, advancing age, and a family history of kidney disease are just a few of the many risk factors for CKD

Are there any symptoms I should look for to tell that I have CKD?
Unfortunately, most people will not have any symptoms until their kidney disease is advanced; therefore, many do not come to a physician’s attention until the kidney disease may be somewhat advanced. Your primary care physician will often have screening laboratories done that has a serum creatinine reported. This test is used to screen for kidney disease (more on this later). For now, some of the symptoms that you may have include:

  • Feeling more tired and having less energy
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Having a poor appetite
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having swollen feet and ankles, and having puffiness around your eyes, especially in the morning
  • Having dry, itchy skin
  • Needing to urinate more often, especially at night.

What is chronic kidney disease?
According to the National Kidney Foundation, chronic kidney disease is defined as having some type of kidney abnormality or marker, such as protein in the urine, and having decreased kidney function for three months or longer. If kidney disease gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in your blood and make you feel sick. You may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. Also, kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and cardiovascular disease. These problems may happen slowly, over an extended period. Early detection and treatment can often keep chronic kidney disease from getting worse.

My doctor said my creatininine or GFR is abnormal. What does that mean?
Knowing how well your kidneys are functioning is important in both diagnosing kidney problems and managing their progress. Although there are various ways to do this, the simplest is the MDRD GFR (glomerular filtration rate) which can be calculated using a patient’s age, race, gender and a laboratory test, known as the serum creatinine. Our muscles are in a constant state of being broken down and being repaired through daily metabolism. The creatinine is a byproduct of this breakdown and is generally stable in the blood from day to day. 
When your physician has blood work done on you and the serum creatinine is reported as elevated this may indicate a problem with your kidneys. This may have necessitated the referral to NTKC.

While the serum creatinine is an indication of kidney function, since we are all of different sizes and muscle masses using a variety of other variables becomes necessary. This equation was derived from a large study that looked at all these factors to come up with a standardized way to measure kidney function. This GFR is used to determine what stage of kidney disease one has, stages 1 and 2 being very mild, with GFRs above 60 ml/min. When the GFR is greater than 60, other markers of kidney function such as an abnormal urine or abnormal ultrasound are necessary for making the diagnosis. When the GFR is less than 60 for greater than three months, it indicates the presence of CKD. 
You may be told you have “stage III or stage IV CKD” if the GFR is less than 60. If it is less than 15, many will require either dialysis or a kidney transplant.