Kidney Failure

Dr. B, why do kidneys fail?

Kidneys fail because their functioning capacity to get rid of body’s toxic substances is compromised by different kinds of diseases and injuries. Some of these are: diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic kidneys, blockage of the urinary tract and certain type of medications.

Kidney failure, also called renal failure, can be partial or complete; acute or chronic. In acute renal failure, kidneys do recover function in six weeks or so. In chronic renal failure the damage is permanent. Chronically diseased kidneys can sustain life until about 90 percent of their functioning capacity has been lost.

What do kidneys do?

Kidneys remove wastes and toxic substances. They regulate water and electrolyte balance, and produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, the making of red blood cells, and uptake of calcium from the intestine.

Kidneys are essential to life. We are lucky that we have two kidneys compared to other essential organs like the brain, heart, and liver.

What happens if kidneys fail?

The body is unable to get rid of toxic substances from the blood. It has difficulty maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and acid base balance. The blood pressure goes up. Certain parts of the body become puffy from fluid retention. There is change in the urinary output and in its content.

What is the long-term prognosis of chronic renal failure?

Without kidney dialysis and kidney transplant the prognosis is bad. Dialysis is life-prolonging process for patients with end stage kidney disease. Dialysis removes toxic materials from a patient’s blood. It also helps in maintaining body’s fluid, electrolyte and acid-base balance. But kidney transplantation is the most effective treatment.

Statistics show that as of 1998, there were 3434 patients waiting for an organ transplant in Canada. This is 88 percent increase since 1991! Eighty-one percent of patients listed for an organ transplant in 1998 were waiting for a kidney.

John Boksteyn, President of the Southern Alberta Branch and member of the National Board of Directors of The Kidney Foundation of Canada says that the Foundation is a national volunteer organization dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of people living with kidney disease.

Boksteyn adds, “March is Kidney Month and the volunteers have been working hard to collect funds for research and education. They also actively promote awareness of, and commitment to organ donation”.

How can we take care of our kidneys?

Maintain adequate hydration by drinking enough water. Have your blood pressure checked and treated if it is high. If you suffer from diabetes then follow your doctor’s advice and keep your blood sugar level under control. Have your urine checked for sugar, blood and protein as part of your physical examination. When you take any medications on regular basis, especially off the counter, then check for its effect on kidneys. Chronic urinary infection and kidney stone problems should be treated.

We are blessed with two kidneys to keep us healthy. Let us take care of them for our family and ourselves – you never know when a family member may need to borrow one!

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