World Kidney Day:

Your Kidneys are Essential, so Let’s Care for Them!

Did you know there are over 70 organs in the human body? Each organ has a specific job, a unique role in a complex system. Within this system, there are several vital organs that function to keep us alive. Among these, our kidneys have a crucial purpose of filtering toxins out of the bloodstream, regulating electrolytes, managing our water balance and producing vital hormones.

When our kidneys become diseased, it can often go unnoticed. To help raise awareness, the International Society of Nephrology  (ISN) and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations – World Kidney Alliance (IFKF-WKA) launched World Kidney Day in 2006. 

About 1 in 7 adults suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD) and most go undiagnosed. In fact, 90% of adults may not even know they have CKD, which is why building awareness is so important.

Lakeland Regional Health’s very own nephrologist Dr. Umair Syed Ahmed, empowers his patients to be educated on their kidney health and he wants you to feel the same! Dr. Ahmed works with patients to develop individualized care for hypertension, acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, glomerular disorders, kidney stones, cystic kidney diseases, electrolyte abnormalities, end-stage-renal disease including managing both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, and management of kidney transplant patients. Continue reading to learn more about World Kidney Day and the amazing role of your kidneys! 

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

What is World Kidney Day?

World Kidney Day is a special opportunity to raise awareness about kidney health.

Each year the organizers use a theme to represent the importance of public health education and access. In 2023, the theme centers around supporting the vulnerable populations, such as those suffering with chronic diseases like kidney disease, and preparing for the unexpected. 

The past three years with COVID-19 has created a landscape of uncertainty, particularly in health care access. When the unexpected occurs, (COVID-19, hurricanes, wildfires, natural disasters, etc.), our vulnerable populations are at increased risk. With campaigns such as World Kidney Day, we can slow down and remember to find ways to support our patients with chronic diseases; we can ensure they are prepared with resources, access, and advocacy when the unexpected occurs. 

At Lakeland Regional Health, our mission is to deliver the best outcomes and safest care by placing people at the heart of all we do. We do this by trying to promote wellness, education and discovery.  Celebrating World Kidney Day is a continuation of this process. We want to be able to create awareness about kidney disease in Polk County, so that those who may have CKD can get diagnosed earlier and that those who don’t have it can take the measures to prevent it

We can celebrate World Kidney Day by educating ourselves on the incredible role our kidneys play in our daily life! Click here to learn more about World Kidney Day

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

Why are your kidneys so important?

Located deep in the lower back and just about the size of your fist, our kidneys are powerful organs with essential tasks. These include filtering blood, producing red blood cells, and removing extra waste through the urine. Kidneys work to produce urine in highly complex steps of excretion and reabsorption in order to maintain a stable balance of body chemicals.

chronic kidney disease illustration

Many do not realize that our kidneys do so much more to keep us healthy:  

  • Regulate blood pressure
  • Produce a hormone called Erythropoietin to make red blood cells
  • Produce activated Vitamin D which helps keep our bones healthy
  • Regulate many electrolytes including sodium and potassium levels
  • Regulates the blood acid levels

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means impaired kidney function for at least 90 days. It is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot function as well as they should. Because of this, excess fluid and waste from blood remain in the body and may cause adverse consequences and increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Some other health consequences of CKD include:

  • Anemia or low number of red blood cells
  • Increased occurrence of infections
  • Low calcium levels, high potassium levels, and high phosphorus levels in the blood
  • Debilitating symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, altered taste, fatigue, excessive drowsiness, confusion, possibly even developing seizures and going into a coma.
  • Depression or lower quality of life

Kidney disease is very common. About 1 in 7 adults, approximately 35-40 million individuals, suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD). Most go undiagnosed; in fact, 90% of adults may not even know they have CKD because typically in early stages of CKD, there are little to no symptoms. Every 24 hours, 360 people begin dialysis treatment for kidney failure.

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

How is CKD Diagnosed?

Kidney disease often has no symptoms in its early stages, and can be referred to as a “silent disease.” For some, symptoms may only show up after the disease is very advanced.

Because of this, education and awareness are key so that patients at risk can be screened for this. It is crucial to care for your kidneys when they are healthy and functioning properly.

With early diagnosis and treatment, it’s possible to slow or even stop the progression of the disease. Diagnosis can be made on blood and urine tests.

Serum creatinine is an important kidney blood test to determine the kidney function. It is a product produced by muscles. As kidney disease gets worse, the level of serum creatinine goes up.

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is another important blood test. The best analogy is to think of this like a percentage kidney function. It tells you approximately how much percentage kidney function is left. For example, if someone’s GFR is 45, it means they have about 45% kidney function left. We want this number to be as high as possible. The GFR is used to divide CKD into 5 stages, 1 being the earliest and 5 the worse, 5 is when patients need dialysis.

A urine test to check for protein leakage is important. Albumin is one of the proteins tested on the urine test. It may indicate kidney damage. The less protein in your urine, the better.

CKD has five stages:

Stage 1

eGFR: 90+

Kidney Function: 90%

Little kidney damage with normal kidney function.

Stage 2

eGFR: 60-89

Kidney Function: 80%

Kidney damage with partial function loss.

Stage 3a

eGFR: 45-59

Kidney Function: 60%

Mild to moderate loss of function.

Stage 3b

eGFR: 30-44

Kidney Function: 40%

Moderate to severe loss of function.

Stage 4

eGFR: 15-29

Kidney Function: 20%

Severe loss of function.

Stage 5

eGFR: <15

Kidney Function: 10%

Kidney failure. Need treatment to live.

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

What causes CKD?

The two leading causes:

Diabetes mellitus and hypertension are the two leading causes of CKD, and account for nearly 75%-80% of all cases.

Other causes:

Other risk factors:

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

Can we prevent CKD?

Yes, when we live a healthy lifestyle and address risk factors early on, we can reduce the risk of CKD.

Control your blood pressure: Close monitoring of blood pressure is recommended. High blood pressure can increase your risk of CKD.  Talk with your health care provider about certain blood pressure medicines, called ACE inhibitors and ARBs, which may protect your kidneys. The names of these medicines end in –pril or –sartan.

Control your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels: Talk with your health care provider about certain diabetes medications called SGLT 2 inhibitors which may offer better long-term protection for your kidneys. The names of these medicines end in -flozin.

Be careful about the daily use of over-the-counter medications: Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen and antacid/acid reflux medications, such as Omeprazole may damage your kidneys. Discuss the long-term use of these with your health care provider.

Make healthy food choices: Choose foods that are healthy for your heart and your entire body like fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Eat healthy meals, and cut back on salt and added sugars. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. Try to have less than 10 percent of your daily calories come from added sugars. Consider meeting a dietician to discuss a personalized diet plan. Did you know the recommended daily sodium intake is 2,300 mg? According to the CDC, Americans on average consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day.

Live an active lifestyle: This can be running, going to the gym, walking, biking, swimming, dancing, or whatever physical activity you enjoy! American Heart Association recommends at least 150 mins of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 mins of vigorous aerobic exercise every week.

Get regular checkups: Stay on top of your health by visiting your Primary Care Provider annually or whenever you feel sick. Please have your provider check your kidney function as part of your testing, especially if you have any of the risk factors for kidney disease. The frequency of this testing can be determined by your provider depending on your risk factors.

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

Can we treat CKD?

There is no cure for CKD, although treatment can slow or halt the progression of the disease and can prevent other serious conditions developing. If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), you can take steps to protect your kidneys from more damage.

The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the better. The steps you take to protect your kidneys from damage also may help prevent heart disease—and improve your health overall. These are the same steps we discussed for prevention of kidney disease. You should try and see a kidney specialist, a nephrologist, who can help determine if you have any other underlying condition causing CKD.

Basic Principles of Managing CKD:

  • Treat and control the underlying cause
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Control your blood glucose
  • Take medicines as prescribed
  • Health lifestyle with good diet and exercise
  • Stop smoking
  • Regular nephrology follow-ups and blood/urine tests
  • Avoid medications which may affect kidney health such as long-term pains meds/NSAIDS and PPIs.
  • Remember to tell other providers you see about your kidney disease as some medicines and procedures involving iv iodinated contrast may need to be reconsidered if possible.
  • Know that your medicines may change over time

Dr. Ahmed Explains –

What happens if kidneys completely fail?

When kidneys fail and you reach the final stage of kidney disease, it is called End-stage renal disease (ESRD) which is when you have a GFR of less than 15.

ESRD is when kidney function is no longer adequate for long-term survival. When patients reach ESRD, toxic products and fluids can accumulate in the blood, and they may start feeling sick. 

The options then include kidney transplantation or dialysis. Some patients may prefer to do neither and may have to focus on a more conservative approach which may include hospice care if symptoms worsen and cannot be managed with medicines for symptom relief.

Dialysis and kidney transplantation are known as renal replacement therapies (RRT) because they attempt to “replace” the normal functioning of the kidneys.

Dialysis is a machine which helps clean the blood to remove the excessive amount of fluid and toxins in the bloodstream. 

  • Hemodialysis uses an “artificial kidney” located outside of your body to filter diseased blood and then return clean blood back to your body. This takes up to 4 hours each time and is recommended 2-3 times a week at a local dialysis unit. This can also be taught to patients who can then do it at home themselves. 
  • Peritoneal Dialysis allows a cleansing fluid to flow through a catheter into part of your abdomen. After a set period of time, the fluid with the filtered waste products flows out of your abdomen and is discarded, and the process is repeated. This is taught to patients who can then do it at home themselves.

Kidney transplant is the best option for certain patients, which can give them full function of their kidneys.      

  • This requires surgery with one kidney transplanted which can replace the function of two damaged or failed kidneys. This can come from someone who is alive and willing and able to donate a kidney or can come from a deceased donor. 
  • After a kidney transplant, patients need to be on medicines long-term to suppress their immune system to ensure that the body does not reject the new kidney.  This obviously has its own risks such as infection and increased risk of cancer, but a kidney transplant is the treatment of choice for patients with end-stage renal disease as life expectancy of patients is much better with a kidney transplant compared to those who are on dialysis. Approximately 19% patient’s will be alive 10 years after starting dialysis, half of the dialysis patients are likely to die within 5 years of starting dialysis.  This is compared to a 52.1% survival rate 10 years after a kidney transplant is performed. 

There are risks with any treatment option. Our physicians will take time to discuss each option with you to determine which treatment route will suit you, your needs, and your lifestyle.