March is National Kidney Month – a time to give some thought to just how well you are taking care of these important bean-shaped organs. At Natchitoches Regional Medical Center (NRMC), we want to help increase awareness about the role of the kidneys in your overall health and the early signs of kidney disease.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), millions of people in the United States have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Unfortunately, many people do not even know they have it until the disease progresses. Often considered a silent disease, it is important to diagnosis CKD in its earliest stages. Those in the highest risk group for developing kidney disease are those with diabetes and/or high blood pressure, but there are also many other conditions and illnesses that can affect your kidneys.
What the Kidneys Do
We have two kidneys located just below the rib cage on both sides of the lower back. About the size of a fist, these important organs help filter the blood in our bodies and remove waste. The kidneys also produce Vitamin D, which is essential to good health, help balance fluids within the body, and serve to regulate salt and potassium. The kidneys also produce red blood cells and regulate pH. As a specialized branch of medicine, doctors who specialize in caring for the kidneys are called nephrologists.
“The kidneys are the body’s filter similar to the filter in a car that helps keep the car engine clean,” explained Board Certified Nephrologist Dr. Alfred Ajise. “The job of the kidneys is to remove waste from the blood and produce urine that carries the waste to the bladder and then out of the body. When the kidneys begin to fail, a person will still produce urine for a while but will begin to lose the ability to filter the blood. Eventually, the ability to produce urine becomes impaired, resulting in severe fluid buildup in the legs and throughout the body, including the lungs.”
Nephrologists help patients by diagnosing and treating the cause of kidney disease with the hope to stabilize the kidney and/or improve kidney function through the management of hypertension, nutrition, exercise, and medication management.
Know the Warning Signs of CKD
If you notice any changes in the amount or frequency of your urination, you should see your doctor. Watch for changes in color, foamy urine, or any odors.
Get a routine physical and have your urine checked for blood and protein– both can be signs of kidney disease.
Many people also experience lower back pain.
Make a Commitment
Talk to your doctor about your kidney health. Watch your diet, limit additional salt, drink enough fluids to stay hydrated, and exercise. If you have other health issues such as high blood pressure, get regular blood pressure checks, take your medicine as prescribed and get enough exercise. For more information about your health, visit NRMChospital.org.