Your kidneys work hard 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to filter wastes from your bloodstream, control your blood pressure, and keep your bones strong. And that’s just a partial list of their daily chores. But people tend to ignore their kidneys until something goes wrong.
Our board-certified physicians at Metro Renal Associates in Washington, DC, and Capitol Heights, Maryland, offer top-level health services for chronic kidney disease (CKD), hypertension, dialysis, kidney transplant, and other conditions affecting kidney function and overall health.
Read what this premier medical team says about the symptoms that indicate your kidneys may be struggling to keep up with your body’s daily demands.
Understanding kidney function
Most people are born with two functioning kidneys that sit just below the ribcage, one on either side. These small bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, filter cellular wastes and excess fluids from your blood and transport them out of your body in urine.
Your kidneys help maintain a healthy balance of water, sodium, potassium, and other minerals in your bloodstream. Kidneys also produce hormones that control your blood pressure, help create new red blood cells, and promote healthy bones.
How does kidney disease affect my health?
Declines in kidney function can lead to health-threatening fluid and mineral imbalances. For instance, dangerously high potassium levels (hyperkalemia) can cause muscle weakness, irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia), and heart attack.
Other conditions related to poor kidney function include:
- Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
- Pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart)
- Heart disease
- Inflammation of the saclike membrane surrounding your heart (pericarditis)
- Seizures and other central nervous system problems
- Decreased immune function
- End-stage kidney disease
- Increased risk of bone fracture
- Dangerously elevated blood pressure
While two are better, you can usually live with just one functioning kidney. But if both kidneys fail, death is unavoidable unless you receive dialysis or undergo a kidney transplant.
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease
Frequently referred to as chronic kidney disease because it tends to build slowly over time, kidney disease symptoms may include:
- Edema (swelling) in the legs, ankles, and feet
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty sleeping
- Urinating more or less frequently with changes in urine volume
- Increased confusion or declines in mental sharpness
- Muscle cramps
- Chest pain related to fluid buildup around the heart
- Persistently dry and itchy skin
- Treatment-resistant hypertension (high blood pressure) that's difficult to control
- Shortness of breath caused by fluid in the lungs
Although these symptoms are common to other health conditions, simple urine and blood tests can help identify whether your kidneys are struggling. Your Metro Renal Associates provider may also recommend imaging studies to evaluate the health of your kidneys if your lab results are concerning.
Fortunately, early treatment can correct or at least slow the progression of kidney disease and thus prevent more severe health consequences.
Schedule an evaluation at Metro Renal Associates today by calling one of our offices or requesting an appointment online.