It can be easy to miss the signs when our kidneys aren’t functioning properly, but since they are so important to our overall health, it’s important to be aware of them. This is critical if you fall into any at-risk groups, including those with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease.
Catching symptoms early could prevent lasting damage to the kidneys, which could result in chronic kidney disease (CKD); or kidney failure, which would need to be treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Dr. Lindsay Sanders, of Sierra Nevada Nephrology Center (SNNC), shares, “Chronic kidney disease is usually a painless disease, and often people may not be aware of impaired kidney function unless they have regular visits with their healthcare providers.”
Dr. Sanders shares these symptoms to be aware of:
- Changes in urination, such as blood in the urine or excessively foamy urine, are indications of changing kidney function and should be evaluated.
- New or increasing swelling in the legs, as well as have worsening hypertension, should prompt a visit to a healthcare provider.
- Fatigue and loss of appetite may also occur, though this is usually only with significantly impaired kidney function.
Some other signs that your kidneys might not be functioning correctly include:
- A bad taste in the mouth or food tastes different
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath, often associated with new or worsening swelling in the legs
- Dizziness and trouble concentrating
Dr. Sanders stress that if you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible, so they can do screening tests and refer you to a nephrologist if necessary.
“While some people may experience a sudden decrease in kidney function associated with very specific causes, chronic kidney disease is generally associated with other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, making it even more important to see healthcare provider,” she says.
Good habits for healthy kidneys
Controlling blood pressure and diabetes through a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent chronic kidney disease and its progression to kidney failure. Following these tips can lower the risk:
- Follow a low-salt diet if you have high blood pressure
- Incorporate more plant-based foods and avoid processed foods
- Maintain a balance of calcium and phosphorous
- Participate in aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week
- Have regular check-ups with your doctor
- Do not smoke or use tobacco
- Keep a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol
“In general, a mostly plant-based diet is recommended for general and renal health,” Dr. Sanders says. “Often, patients will also benefit from a reduced sodium diet.”
She adds that patients with advanced kidney disease will require other more specific dietary changes.
While regular exercise is important for general health, it’s critical for people at risk of CKD. “Exercise is important for good general and cardiovascular health, as well blood pressure control and healthy weight maintenance, which are all important for slowing progression of chronic kidney disease,” Dr. Sanders shares.
Read: Kidney Health FAQ
“It is important to maintain good control of all chronic conditions and good cardiovascular health to protect the long term function of your kidneys,” Dr. Sanders says. “It’s also important for everyone to see their primary care provider on a regular basis. And, if they have kidney problems, to see their kidney specialist regularly.”
If you have questions or concerns about your kidney health, call SNNC at 775-322-4550 to schedule a consultation.