How Do the Kidneys Work?

June 13, 2019

Your kidneys are vital in maintaining good health. Do you know how they work?

Most people are aware they must take good care of their heart and lungs to maintain their wellbeing. But do they realize how important another organ is in keeping us healthy? Our kidneys perform a vital function in removing waste products from our bodies. If they malfunction or are damaged, our health will be seriously compromised.

Located below the rib cage in the middle of the back are two small, bean-shaped kidneys that are part of our urinary tract. These organs remove waste and extra fluid by filtering a half-cup of blood a minute. The waste flows through the ureters attached to the kidneys, where it eventually collects in the bladder. When we urinate, the waste leaves our body.

To recognize the importance of our kidneys, we need to understand how they work. Properly functioning kidneys ensure good health. On the other hand, when our kidneys are impaired, our health suffers.

How Kidneys Work

Inside each kidney is a network of nephrons that filter out waste materials through blood vessels known as glomerulus. Once the glomerulus scrub the blood, the fluid travels to a tubule where it separates the substances our bodies need, such as protein, from the unwanted ones flushed away in the urine.

This filtering mechanism balances the mixture of water, salt, and minerals in our bodies so that our muscles, nerves, and tissues operate as they should. In addition to filtering out harmful substances, our kidneys are involved in the production of red blood cells and maintaining normal blood pressure.

Chronic medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes interrupt this process. Sugar that remains in the blood impair the nephrons. High blood pressure, meanwhile, damages the blood vessels in the kidneys. Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder, also prevents the kidneys from functioning properly.

Monitoring Your Kidney Health

A blood test and urine analysis measure two important markers that assess kidney health: creatinine and protein levels. Abnormal ranges of those substances could indicate weakening kidney function.

When we’re active, our muscles break down. This is a normal occurrence, but it does produce a waste product called creatinine. In healthy kidneys, creatinine is removed through the blood. When kidneys cannot push creatinine out through the urine, it builds up in the bloodstream and could be a sign of poorly functioning kidneys.

Our kidneys manage the level of protein in our bodies as well. As our kidneys filter out waste, they keep much-needed protein within the body. However, when the kidneys cannot separate protein from harmful waste, excess protein shows up in the urine. This condition — proteinuria — signals the kidneys are not operating at full strength.

If tests show high levels of protein and creatinine, a kidney specialist will schedule you for regular testing and put you on a low-sodium, low-protein diet. You should also control hypertension and diabetes through medication to maintain good kidney function.

In its early stages, chronic kidney disease sometimes has no overt symptoms; that’s why frequent testing of kidney function is vital in detecting the condition. Common symptoms of chronic kidney disease include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and diminished appetite. Late-stage chronic kidney disease is treated either through dialysis or an organ transplant.

Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

Here at Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group, we specialize in keeping your kidneys healthy. We treat all forms of kidney disorders and hypertension. Call us today for a consultation and evaluation of your kidney function. Your kidney health is important to us.

Learn the Early Signs of Kidney Disease

April 16, 2019

Learn the Early Signs of Kidney Disease

Identifying the signs and symptoms of kidney disease is a critical step for early detection.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, many of the more than 30 million Americans with kidney disease don’t even realize they have it. Symptoms are often overlooked or attributed to more minor causes. It’s not until the disease has progressed and symptoms are too obvious to ignore that many decide to see a doctor.

If left undiagnosed, kidney disease can result in kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD is irreversible and must be treated through dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Most people are born with two kidneys, fist-sized organs that filter toxins and excess fluid from our blood each day. This process keeps our nerves, muscles, and other bodily tissues functioning smoothly. When kidneys become diseased, toxins start to build up. This can trigger a range of symptoms, including:

Increased Fatigue: Excess toxins may make you feel more tired, inhibit your ability to focus, and turn every-day activities, like lifting groceries out of the car, into strenuous endeavors. Iron deficiencies like anemia are also common side effects of kidney disease that can result in feelings of fatigue.

Dry Skin: Shifting mineral levels within the blood and changes in the sweat and oil glands may occur as a result of kidney disease. This lack of proper nutrients and moisture leads to flaky, itchy skin.

Difficulty Sleeping: Patients with kidney disease might experience Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) due to a lack of iron. These sudden, uncontrollable leg twitches often occur when the body is lying down and can make it extremely difficult to get to sleep. Poorly functioning kidneys can also cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is not only disruptive, but potentially dangerous if left untreated.

Changes in Urine: Fluid and toxins filtered from the blood by your kidneys are discarded through roughly two quarts of urine each day. When your kidneys start failing, you may feel the need to go to the bathroom more often and notice significant changes in the quality of your urine. Weak kidneys allow blood cells and protein to seep through filters, turning urine slightly red and foamy. This loss of protein can also lead to puffiness around the eyes.

Cramping and Swelling: Sodium retention is a common side effect of kidney disease, and can result in swelling, particularly around the feet and ankles. Electrolyte imbalances are also prevalent and may cause muscle cramping throughout the body.

Poor Appetite: A buildup of toxins in the bloodstream can significantly decrease your hunger levels.

Next Steps if You’re Experiencing Symptoms

The symptoms associated with kidney disease should not be ignored, especially if experienced in conjunction with one another or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of kidney disease. Early detection is a critical part of kidney health and ESRD prevention.

Schedule an appointment with the Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group today if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and think you may be at risk of developing kidney disease.

How to Avoid Painful Kidney Stones

March 16, 2019

How to Avoid Painful Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can cause intense discomfort, but there are some steps people can take to prevent them, including staying hydrated, managing their weight, and altering their diet.

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form when urine becomes concentrated. This causes the minerals to crystallize, which forms tiny pebbles in your urinary tract. They are incredibly painful, but also very preventable and treatable.

Kidney stones can lead to increased rates of kidney disease or cause unpleasant infections. However, when they’re identified and treated in a timely fashion, they’re not likely to cause lasting damage. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of kidney stones as soon as possible.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Kidney Stones

When stones first form in the kidneys, you likely won’t experience any symptoms at all. As the stones travel from the kidney to the bladder through the ureter, however, they can get caught and cause a problematic block. Although the most common symptom is pain in the abdomen, other symptoms that often accompany a lodged kidney stone include:

  • Sharp, cramping pain in your groin or on your backside
  • Extremely dark urine due to blood
  • Reduced amount of urine excreted
  • Burning sensations and pain during urination (for men, there may be pain at the tip of the penis)
  • A persistent need to urinate
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you have any of these symptoms coupled with a fever or chills, you may be developing an infection and should seek medical attention.

The Leading Causes of Kidney Stones

Dehydration: By far the most common cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body. Stones tend to form more often in people who are chronically dehydrated. When you don’t have enough water in your body, you have less fluid to keep salts dissolved, which leads to concentrated urine.

Calcium build-up: Although there are many kinds of stones, 80% of them are calcium stones, which occur when calcium builds up in the bladder and increases the rate of mineral crystallization in urine.

Obesity: Obesity is another leading cause of kidney stones. Being overweight can change your urine’s acid levels, which leads to an increased risk of stone formation.

Treatments and Prevention

Although there’s not a one-size-fits-all defense strategy to prevent kidney stones from forming, there are some easy things you can do in your day-to-day life to ward off potential stones.

Drink More Water: The recommended daily dose of water is at least 3 liters each day. Try measuring your water intake for a day or two to get a sense of what that amount looks like. It usually comes out to about 8 glasses of water. Drink that much and you will greatly decrease your risk of developing stones.

Improve Your Diet: Eat less sodium and calcium. Sodium can cause both urine calcium and cystine to be too high, which greatly increases your risk of stones. A few foods you may want to eat less of are cheese, canned soup and vegetables, salty snacks like chips or pretzels, and bread or other baked goods. Try replacing these foods with more fruits and fresh vegetables, which offer potassium, fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. These nutrients can help keep stones from forming.

Consider Medication: For some, simply eating less sodium and drinking more water is not enough to prevent kidney stones. Various medications like thiazide diuretics or potassium citrate can help lower sodium in the body and uric acid in urine. Likewise, certain over-the-counter vitamin supplements can be very helpful as long as you consult with your primary doctor first.

Even with the most disciplined prevention methods, kidney stones can still form in the body. If and when they do, call a doctor for advice on how to pass them. You can usually treat them in the comfort of your own home.

In some cases, hospital treatment might be needed so you can get rehydrated via an IV and receive anti-inflammatory medication. In the most dire of situations, surgery may be necessary, although this is not very common.

To learn more about kidney stone prevention and treatments, get in touch with the Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group. Our doctors will be happy to talk with you about methods of prevention or treatment options if you already have kidney stones.

What Is Dialysis Fluid?

February 20, 2019

What Is Dialysis Fluid?

When the kidneys fail to function adequately, dialysis may be necessary. This medical treatment removes waste, such as excess salts and fluids, from the body, and this process is repeated on a recurring schedule. Depending on your unique case, either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis (PD). Depending on how the type of treatment, dialysis fluid can have different meanings.

What Is Dialysis Fluid Made Of?

Dialysis solution is also known as dialysate and dialysis fluid. It is a mixture of dextrose, salt, and minerals, reports the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The exact concentration varies based on whether hemodialysis or PD is used. Furthermore, it is important to note it is not the same thing as the fluids removed during treatment.

When Is Dialysate Used, and How Does It Affect Treatment?

During treatment, excess fluid and wastes are removed from the body. Although the blood is “cleaned” by the machine, the blood itself does not pass through a filter in the most literal sense. Waste products from the body are dissolved within and carried by the serum in the blood. It would impractical to remove dissolved waste products with a simple filter. This is where dialysate comes into play.

Dialysate facilitates the diffusion of waste products from areas of higher concentration—the blood and cellular tissues—to areas of lower concentration—within the filter. The blood moves through tiny tubes within the artificial kidney. The dialysate passes through in the opposite direction outside of these tubes. The tubes are semi-permeable, similar to the cell membranes of tissues.

The dialysate is the mechanism that removes waste products from the body. In addition, the machine removes excess body fluids from the blood as well. Removing too much fluid can affect treatment and a person’s health.

For example, changes in the volume and speed of blood flowing through the machine may affect blood pressure, heart rate and state of consciousness.

Dialysate is also used in a comparable manner in PD, says the NIDDK. The fluid enters the abdominal cavity and surrounds the organs. The permeable nature of cells allows diffusion of waste products and excess fluid into the dialysate. Upon completion, the solution is removed via the same port of entry.

Know How Dialysis Fluid Enables Your Treatment. 

Treatment for kidney failure through dialysis is usually misunderstood as a treatment when all kidney function stops. However, diminished kidney function, such as chronic kidney disease, may require treatment before kidneys complete fail. In addition, some people may have a sensitivity to dialysis fluid, which impacts the duration and speed of treatment sessions as well. Instead of just hoping for the best, make sure your treating physician understands whether treatment is necessary and how it will impact your life. In fact, schedule your consultation by contacting Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group online or by calling the Taunton Regional Dialysis Center at 1-508-828-5986 today.

How does kidney disease affect the body?

February 10, 2019

How does kidney disease affect the body?

To stay healthy, the human body must remove toxins and excess fluids. Most people are born with two kidneys, which are a pair of fist-sized organs that filter toxins and excess fluid from about 50 gallons of blood a day. The body then eliminates the fluid and toxins through about two quarts of urine daily. Kidney disease prevents the kidneys from filtering blood, however, and this can affect the body in many ways.

More than 30 million people in the United States have kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation, and most do not know it. This is because kidney disease does not typically cause noticeable symptoms until it has reached a very advanced stage, known as renal failure or end-stage renal disease, in which the kidneys stop working altogether.

Certain conditions, such as low blood pressure and diabetes, can increase the risk of kidney disease. Low blood pressure, known as hypotension, reduces the amount of blood flowing to the kidneys. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure in the nation. In patients with diabetes, the excessive sugar levels in the blood damage blood vessels in the kidneys, which prevent the kidneys from working well.

How Kidney Disease Affects the Body

When kidneys stop working, the waste products the kidneys usually excrete build up. Levels of certain byproducts of cell function, such as urea and creatinine, can grow too high. Kidney disease can affect the concentration of certain minerals, such as sodium and potassium, which can affect many systems throughout the body. Low levels of these minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus can cause muscle cramps, for example.

Kidney disease can also prevent the kidneys from concentrating the urine properly, which allows the buildup of excess fluid in the body. Puffiness or swelling of the feet, ankles and lower legs may occur; some people with renal disease have puffy eyes too. Many people with kidney disease feel the need to urinate more often.

Renal disease can cause dry and itchy skin. Among their many other jobs, kidneys help make red blood cells, work to balance the levels of minerals in the body and help keep bones strong. The mineral imbalances and bone diseases that often accompany advanced kidney disease can cause itchiness.

Kidney disease can interfere with sleep. When the kidneys fail to filter blood properly, toxins can build up in the body, and this accumulation of toxins can interfere with sleep. Sleep apnea, a condition characterized by multiple pauses in breathing during sleep, is more common in people with kidney disease. These toxins, along with the anemia associated with kidney disease, can also cause a person to feel more tired, have less energy or have trouble concentrating.

For more information about renal failure and the effects kidney disease has on the body, consult with a vein doctor in Taunton, MA, and Brockton, MA that specializes in kidney disease, nephrology, and dialysis.

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