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Kingston, Massachusetts, United States

Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011

Last time I looked at the causes of kidney disease, and to be honest, I never knew there were that many causes…and I probably only scratched the surface, which is why I say it is important to check with your own doctor if you suspect anything.

Recently, a very dear friend wasn’t feeling very well.  She had a typical cold that turned into a flu.  Obviously a flu can be troublesome, especially if it lingers.  But for most people, you just have to let it “run its course” as many doctors and moms have said over the years.  However, what really worried me about her flu, was about a week into it she began to experience excruciating pain in her side by where her kidney was located.  After she told me about this, I was really worried.  She went to see her doctor, who ordered a CT scan, thinking that it may be a kidney infection.  Thankfully, the results of the scan were negative…however her pain persisted, but with no real answer as to why.

Kidney disease is something that I would not want even for my own worst enemy.  So, to see a family member or friend experience kidney issues, even temporary, is painful to watch.  So, I feel it is only fitting this time now to look at symptoms of kidney disease so you know what you are looking for, or want to discuss with your physician.  Growing up, I always knew that my Diabetes could possibly lead to kidney issues, if not fully diagnosed kidney disease.  But the only symptom that I was ever aware of was high blood pressure.
As you know, high blood pressure can lead to so many different health issues, especially cardiac issues and renal issues.  The way I understand it, it is a very vicious cycle of how high blood pressure affects your kidneys.  High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and that, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout the body. If the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, they could stop removing wastes and extra fluid from the body. With the extra fluid in the blood vessels, this could then raise blood pressure even more.

Some of the other symptoms, I have learned, unfortunately through direct experience, are: changes in urination, swelling, fatigue, dry skin/itching, metallic taste in your mouth or ammonia-like breath, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, feeling cold, dizziness or trouble concentrating, leg/flank pain.
There may be other symptoms, but these seem to be the most prevalent, and in my case, as I mentioned, I have unfortunately experienced most of them.

Changes in urination.  Often times, most of us don’t notice anything about our pee.  As men, we go to the bathroom, stand in front of a urinal and relieve ourselves…women do the same, except they sit when they relieve themselves.  We do this day in and day out, usually without much thought, unless there is some pain or discomfort or of there is an odd odor coming from it.  Some things to look for when kidney disease may be suspected include foamy or bubbly urine (I have come to find out that this could mean that there is the presence of protein in your urine); you may be peeing more often and it could be pale in color or you could be peeing less often and it could be darker in color; and you may feel pressure or have difficulty urinating.  For me it has mostly been foamy urine.

Swelling.  When your kidneys fail, they don’t remove waste and toxins from the blood like they did when they were healthy…this can lead to edema, or swelling.  It mostly occurs in the legs, ankles, feet, face or hands.  For me, there have been times that my ankles have blown up like tree trunks, to the point where it was extremely difficult to put on shoes.
Fatigue.  According to lifeoptions.org, healthy kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin (a-rith'-ro-po'-uh-tin) that tells your body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As the kidneys fail, they make less erythropoietin. With fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen, your muscles and brain become tired very quickly. This condition is called anemia, and it can be treated.  Anemia is something that can definitely kick your butt.  You may have all the greatest intentions in the world to do a planned activity, but when you are anemic it is as if your body is moving in slow motion and you just don’t have the energy to catch up.  My anemia has been treated several ways…with erythropoietin replacement injections (Procrit) and iron supplements.
Dry Skin/Itching.  Since the kidneys remove wastes and toxins from the bloodstream, when they fail the buildup of waste in the blood can cause itching and dry skin.  In my case, I have had very dry skin for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes I feel like I could put a whole bottle of moisturizer on today, and then by tomorrow I would need another new bottle…it is very annoying to say the least.
Metallic Taste/Ammonia-like Breath.  Again, according to lifeoptions.org, a buildup of wastes in the blood (called uremia) can make food taste different and cause bad breath. You may also notice that you stop liking to eat meat, or that you are losing weight because you just don't feel like eating.  Thankfully, this is not something that I have experienced, and hope that I don’t.
Nausea/Vomiting. Uremia, as mentioned above can also cause nausea and vomiting.  Again, this is something that I have not yet experienced and not looking forward to doing so.
Shortness of Breath.  Lifeoptions.org has a good explanation for this, saying, Trouble catching your breath can be related to the kidneys in two ways. First, extra fluid in the body can build up in the lungs. And second, anemia (a shortage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells) can leave your body oxygen-starved and short of breath.  For me, shortness of breath actually was a symptom of my underlying heart disease.  But in some respect, the anemia could have played a part in it as well.  Either way, if you are experiencing this symptom, go get it checked out immediately.
Feeling Cold.  For me, this possible could be the worst symptom to deal with.  Being in New England, it can get pretty cold here.  But during the Spring and into the Summer and early Fall, it can be very pleasant and comfortable.  However, with anemia I could be in the in the warmest room, or it could be a 100 degree day outside, and there are times that I would still feel cold.  The annoying part of this symptom, is the helpless feeling that you just feel cold a lot of the time.
Dizziness/Trouble Concentrating.  Kidney issues related to anemia often mean that your brain is not getting enough oxygen rich blood to operate functionally.  Hopefully you won’t see this in the final draft, but in writing this entry I have had more than a few spelling mistakes and started and stopped and started writing again.
Leg/Flank Pain.  I have not experienced this, except for the occasional “side-splitting” laughter that comes from watching comedian Robin Williams.  However, apparently, though, this could be considered a symptom of those experiencing Polycystic kidney disease, which causes large, fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys and sometimes the liver, and can cause pain.
I may be sounding like a broken record, but if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do yourself a favor and get it checked out sooner rather than later.

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