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What happens in Kidney Disease?

By Laminate Medical
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Healthy kidneys maintain a balance of water and minerals in the blood, remove waste from the body, assist in blood pressure regulation, stimulate red blood cell production and are important in making vitamin D, needed for bone health.

Kidney function may change suddenly due to illness or injury, or may occur slowly over years, causing chronic kidney disease. The main risk factors for developing kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and a family history of kidney failure. Some causes of kidney failure are treatable and kidney function may return to normal. In other cases, the kidney failure is progressive and often irreversible.

A deterioration in kidney function is usually detected through routine blood or urine tests, and in most cases symptoms will only start showing when there is a progression towards renal failure.

Symptoms of kidney disease may include:

  • Swelling due to fluid and waste build up
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Change in urine output
  • Itching
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle cramping
  • Decreased sex drive or impotence
  • Anemia
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Lethargy
  • Heart failure
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Chest pain

The symptoms are often nonspecific, and may not appear until irreversible damage has occurred.

Kidney failure in itself is not painful, however the various symptoms caused by the renal failure can cause pain and discomfort. Untreated kidney failure is a potentially fatal condition.

In cases of kidney failure, deceleration of the disease and prevention of further deterioration is key:

  • Lifelong diligence in monitoring kidney function and keeping blood sugar levels and blood pressure within normal range, is crucial in controlling the disease.
  • A specific tailor made diet must also be adhered to, with limited potassium, phosphorous and sodium (salt), amongst other things.
  • Medication may be prescribed such as phosphorus lowering medication, iron supplements, blood pressure medication, vitamins, etc. Other medications may need to be avoided. Always consult with your health care team before taking any over the counter medicine.

Living with Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease typically takes 10-20 years until it reaches stage 5, also known as End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), with kidney function down to 10% of normal function. If possible, several months to a year before reaching ESRD, your medical team will talk to you about treatment options for kidney failure, giving you information about the various options available to you based on your general health and lifestyle.

Once kidneys reach 10% of their functioning capacity the treatment options available will be dialysis (either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) or a kidney transplant. If hemodialysis is the chosen option, you will need to have an access created to your blood stream well in advance. The preferred form of access is the arteriovenous fistula. The AV fistula lasts significantly longer than other forms of access and carries the least risk of infections, thrombosis or stenosis. The AV fistula requires sufficient time for maturation, and should be created 6-12 months in advance. Other vascular access methods include the arteriovenous graft, which needs 2-4 week to heal before use, and a catheter. The graft is prone to infection and clotting, and has a lifespan of 2-3 years, and is considered to be the second best option. The catheter carries even higher risk of infection and complications than the graft and is generally used as a short term option only, taken out when AV graft or fistula are ready for use.

When considering your options, it is important to remember that the AV fistula is considered to be the golden standard for vascular access, and the first choice whenever possible.

Current science and technology have made the AV fistula even safer, using VasQ™ to provide external support in order to enhance AV fistula maturation and improve patency. Please read more about kidney disease and using VasQ™ at

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