Perhaps the most frightening issue that confronts someone diagnosed with chronic kidney disease is that they fear their life will dramatically change. The thought of not being able to enjoy important activities, such as work, family life, social occasions and athletic endeavors is unsettling. Many people even ask if they are going to die. While it is scary to be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, the good news is, if you find out you have kidney disease in the early stages of the disease there are steps you can take to prolong kidney function. If you work closely with your doctor, chances are good you can still enjoy a healthful, quality of life with kidney disease.
Following good health practices, staying on the job and continuing to enjoy social activities are ways a person can feel in control of their condition. In addition to doing everything physically and medically possible to prolong kidney function, having a job with health insurance provides security that income and health benefits will be available.
The two main causes of chronic kidney disease in Americans are diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases should be controlled — or prevented — to help prolong kidney function.
Diabetics need to keep their blood glucose level in an acceptable range and take all physician-prescribed medicines. In addition, the hemoglobin A1c should be kept under 6.5% and kidney function tests should be performed at least once a year. Studies have shown that certain high blood pressure medicines (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)) can protect the kidneys of people with diabetes, even if they have normal blood pressure.
Patients with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, should take their blood pressure medicine as directed by their doctor. Besides controlling blood pressure, medicines, such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers, can also reduce the risk of kidney failure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that blood pressure remain under control at 125/75 or lower for those with kidney problems who are not diabetic, or 130/85 or lower for those with diabetes.
Other diseases that can damage kidneys include IgA nephropathy, glomerulonephritis and lupus. With these diseases the immune system overacts and inflammation occurs in the kidneys. To slow the disease process, a doctor may prescribe steroids and other medications.
Chronic kidney disease may also be brought on by infections, blockages and medicines that damage the kidneys. Infections can sometimes be cleared up with antibiotics. Blockages may be removed with surgery or other procedures. Certain medications, such as prescription and non-prescription painkillers, some antibiotics and contrast dye (used in medical testing) may have adverse effects on the kidneys. A patient needs to tell all their doctors that they have chronic kidney disease and provide a list of all the medicines they are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, to prevent further kidney damage.
Regardless of how a person develops chronic kidney disease, there are actions an individual can take to prolong kidney function. Smoking causes faster progression of kidney disease, therefore, it is recommended that those with kidney disease stop smoking. Naturally, eating a healthy diet and getting proper nutrition, losing excess weight and exercising are keys to better health that are completely in the patient's control. In fact, many type 2 diabetics can prevent diabetes by following those steps. People with high blood pressure are advised to limit sodium in their diet. Many doctors believe that avoiding too much protein and phosphorus in the diet may also slow the progression of kidney disease. Research continues on other foods and drugs to see their affect on delaying kidney failure, including: fish oil for IgA nephropathy; dietary intake of antioxidant or anti-inflammatory vitamins and foods; and prescribing the anti-fibrotic drug, pirfenidone, for the treatment of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS).
Remember, your kidney condition is unique. You can talk with your doctor and work with your health care team for personalized tips on how to prolong your kidney function. An open and frequent dialog will produce the best results. As well as discussing your medical condition, talk to your doctor about your feelings and ask for advice on how to talk with your family about chronic kidney disease. Your health care team wants to help keep you healthy both physically and emotionally.
If you would like to see a doctor who specializes in the care of kidneys, called a nephrologist, you can use DaVita's Find a kidney doctor tool to locate a nephrologist in your area.
This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a physician.
Please check with a physician if you need a diagnosis and/or for treatments as well as information regarding your specific condition. If you are experiencing urgent medical conditions, call 9-1-1