The kidneys are located in the abdomen behind the peritoneal cavity which contains the liver, spleen, and gastrointestinal tract and are responsible for cleansing the blood of toxins or waste products that are produced daily from normal metabolism of our food and general body processes. When diseases that affect the kidney advance, the toxins and waste products in the blood rise and can become exceedingly high. As a result, the body can experience a variety of problems such as hypertension, fluid overload, congestive heart failure, malnutrition, anemia, thinning bones, and nerve damage, to name a few.
Additionally, kidney disease increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease including myocardial infarction or heart attack or stroke. Early detection and treatment are vital to keeping kidney disease from progressing to something worse causing kidney failure then requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation.
End-Stage Kidney Disease
Diabetes and hypertension are the two most frequent causes of chronic kidney disease. Many other conditions affect kidney function such as polycystic kidney disease, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, congenital defects, cancer, and chronic infection or obstruction from stones or other conditions that block the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder and then voided out with the normal flow of urine.
If a person is diabetic, the body cannot utilize sugar in a normal fashion and as glucose levels rise metabolic products of glucose utilization collect on the blood vessel wall of the entire body and cause vascular damage in the eyes, heart, legs, nerves, and kidneys. This leads to chronic kidney disease in the kidney.
Metabolic products called end glycation products damage the blood vessels of the kidney and damage the nephrons, the small filters we have in each kidney.
Similarly, If a person has hypertension, the increased blood pressure causes damage to the lining of the blood vessels of the body called the endothelium. This damage is different from that mentioned with diabetes but also results in damage to the small vessels in the kidneys and affect the nephron mass such that kidney function deteriorates slowly with mild hypertension and more quickly with advanced hypertension.
Kidney cancer can take many forms. The most common is called renal cell carcinoma and is a disease where kidney cells grow unabated by our immune system and can cause a tumor to develop. Kidney cancers are often slow growing tumors and if caught early can be removed before they have spread to other organs. Kidney cancers often cause no symptoms and can be hard to detect in their early stages. Some signs to watch for are blood in the urine, flank pain, fever, changing voiding patterns, and unexplained weight loss. Certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing kidney cancer. For instance, kidney cancer occurs most frequently in people older than 40. Additional risk factors for kidney cancer include:
- Overuse of pain medications
- Family history of kidney cancer
- African descent
- Exposure to chemicals such as asbestos, cadmium, benzene, organic solvents, or particular herbicides
- Advanced kidney disease or long-term dialysis
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