How is chronic kidney disease treated?

The kidney is a vital organ of the body. It maintains a balance in the body by removing waste and excess fluid via the process of urination. A healthy balance of vitamins, minerals and other salts and facilitating the functioning of the other organs by producing hormones, makes the kidney an essential organ that needs to be kept healthy and blooming!

In an attempt to understand how kidney disease can be treated, one must gather all the information about the pertinent source of the said disease and how it grows to become life threatening.

Who are more susceptible to contracting CKD?

  • People who are diabetic
  • People who are old
  • People with high cholesterol
  • People who are obese
  • People who are regular smokers
  • People from an African-American, native American or Asian American background
  • People suffering from heart and blood vessel disease
  • People who have a family history of kidney disease
  • People with high blood pressure
  • People who have an abnormal kidney structure

Other factors contributing to the deteriorating condition of the kidney’s functioning capabilities:

  • Constant intake of drugs that are toxic for the kidney
  • Polycystic kidney disease (it’s a genetic disorder characterised by the growing of cysts in the kidney)
  • Lupus nephritis
  • Other disorders that weaken the body’s immune system
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Kidney stones
  • Bladder cancer
  • Vesicoureteral reflux; when the urine flows back into the kidney

When one is detected with chronic kidney disease, the kidney starts getting weaker in terms of its ability to function properly and when this destruction starts, it is not reversible. The damage can only be slowed down but one cannot turn back time to make things a 100% fine. As the kidney gradually loses its ability to perform to its greatest ability, the whole body suffers which further compromises the living conditions of the individual.

Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment

Treatment of CKD depends on the severity of the disease. This disease is spread out through 5 stages and every stage has its peculiar complications which in turn has its specific treatment options.  However, some general tips and lifestyle changes might push the break on the maturation of CKD. These are:

  • Devising a diet plan: Depending on the stage of CKD you are in and the nature of imbalance within your body, you must feed your most prized possession; the body and its vital organs. This would help keep your blood glucose levels and blood pressure in check among all the other benefits like preventing muscle mass loss and gaining the energy to do everyday activities. Collaborate with your doctor and dietician to get an effective diet plan to aid your kidney treatment program.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking in itself is harmful for the body and if you are suffering from CKD, it is a big NO NO! Find ways to quit smoking and lead a soulful life.
  • Exercise your way to a healthy life: Sitting on your sofa all day long would do more harm than good. Move your body as much as possible, even if it is for a small walk around your house. Regular exercise might help you escape a lot of associated issues caused by diseases that are complimentary to CKD.
  • Shed those pounds: It is absolutely essential to lose a few pounds if you are overweight, as an attempt to keep track of your blood glucose levels and blood pressure.
  • Check and consult: Expand your understanding of the medicines you take. Consult your doctor before taking any medicine because certain drugs may harm the kidneys if you have CKD.

Digging deeper in the specifications requires an in-depth awareness of each stage of CKD and what it does to your body:

Stage 1:

  • Characterised by glomerular filtration rate (GFR) at a normal or high level that is greater than 90 ml/min.
  • Usually no symptoms or minor symptom since the kidney is still functioning properly.
  • Some indications of stage 1 of kidney disease include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Higher than normal levels of urea in the blood
  • Blood in the urine
  • Protein in urine
  • Swelling in legs
  • Evidence of kidney damage in an ultrasound, X-ray etc.
  • Treatment of first stage of kidney disease are:
  • Eat right: Your diet may contribute to the slowing down of the kidney damage. A healthy diet is the right route to healthy kidney life. Maintaining a balanced diet includes fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains and excludes food that is high in saturated fats, cholesterol, sugar and other processed food. Consult a registered dietician to determine the vitamins, minerals and protein levels that need to be maintained for a healthy and long life.
  • Target the root cause: The underlying health conditions that may have contributed to your kidney disease might be diabetes, high blood pressure etc. Treating these and maintaining healthy levels might contribute to the betterment of one’s health. This is done via medicines that are prescribed by your doctor.
  • Reshaping of lifestyle: Your lifestyle choices determine what your body looks from the inside. Regular exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight, quitting tobacco/ smoking, regularly meditating to release stress, getting sound sleep are some contributors to clean and happy living.
  • Make your doctor your bestie: Constantly visit your doctor, check up on any unusual symptom, know your GFR and take all the medicines as and when prescribed in order to fight this disease.

Stage 2:

  • Marked by eGFR between 60 and 89; indicating mild kidney damage.
  • Some symptoms include:
  • Extreme exhaustion or tiredness
  • Changes in urination in terms of colour (becoming darker, yellow, orange or red) and frequency (greater or lesser visits to the washroom).
  • Insomnia
  • Dry skin or irritable skin (itching)
  • Pain in lower back
  • Muscle cramps especially at night
  • Fluid retention
  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling in legs
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Greater level of protein in urine
  • Treatment options available are:
  • Nutritious food for a flourishing life: The secret to healthy living is no secret. The food you consume is your fuel and you need to make sure that it is rich in the right vitamins, minerals and proteins. Consuming whole grains, plant based oils, fresh fruits and veggies and discarding deli meats, saturated fats, fast or processed foods proves to be beneficial. Consulting a dietician might enable you to make the right changes.
  • Seek medical help: Visit your doctor regularly for check-ups. Note any unusual symptoms, know about the progression of your disease and take your medicines regularly. Your doctor might target the underlying cause of the disease which might be diabetes or high blood pressure and strive to eliminate these “roots” completely. If total elimination is not possible, your doctor might improve your levels of the same.
  • Check your choices: Healthy life demands important lifestyle changes and you need to up your game! Say partial goodbyes to alcohol, quit the use of tobacco or cigarettes and welcome the warm embrace of yoga, meditation and regular workouts. Stay hydrated at all times.

Stage 3:

  • This stage is flagged with an eGFR between 30 and 59.
  • This stage is further divided into two: stage 3a indicates eGFR between 45 and 59 and stage 3b means that the eGFR is between 30 and 44.
  • Symptoms of this stage may include:
  • Change in the frequency and colour and texture of the urine
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Swelling in hands or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Fluid retention
  • At this stage, the kidney has faced damage due to which it does not function properly which in turn leads to build up of waste in the blood. This leads to further complications such as: Uremia, anemia, high blood pressure and bone disease.
  • Treatment options are wide:
  • Seek help from a nephrologist: A kidney doctor can guide to ease any or all of the symptoms and help control the disease. He may treat your blood pressure and diabetes with medicines which are to be taken regularly. Your doctor is your hope to slowing down the disease so follow his instructions religiously.
  • Control what goes in your body: Nutrition is a vital part of dealing with CKD. Uniting with a dietician would do wonders for your kidney life. You might be suggested to eat protein and potassium or limit them, consume grains, fruits, vegetables, lower calcium consumption, cutting out processed food, lower sodium concentrated food items, cutting on carbohydrates etc. These instructions would be set by your dietician and doctor depending on the severity of the disease, your glucose levels etc. So, consulting a dietician is recommended at this stage.
  • Lifestyle changes: Make healthy choices and prolong your kidney health by exercising regularly, quitting smoking and alcohol. Walking even for 30 minutes a day would do wonders for you and your body’s filtering mechanism.

Stage 4:

  • Marked by eGFR between 15 and 29, this stage indicates that your kidneys are moderately or severely damaged. Their ability to function is deteriorating.
  • This is the last stage before kidney failure, thus treatment in this stage is vital.
  • This stage accompanies other complications such as:
  • Bone problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart and blood vessel problems
  • Anemia
  • Fluid in lungs
  • Malnutrition
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Symptoms in this stage are:
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in lower back
  • Changes in the frequency, texture and colour of the urine
  • Change in the taste of food and a metallic taste in mouth
  • Bad breath due to the build-up of toxins in the body
  • Restless legs
  • Sleep problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nerve problems such as numbness or a tingly feeling in hands and feet
  • Issues in doing every day chores or the inability to concentrate
  • Treatment options for patients who find themselves in this stage are:
  • Go for regular check-ups: Your nephrologist will monitor you on a regular basis. Every once in a while you will have blood tests done toexamine the progression of your disease and to manage your medication course. The doctor will accordingly prescribe medicines to slow down the progression of CKD and from preventing it to get damaged further. Other complications that would be attempted to manage are diabetes, anemia, bone disease, hypertension and any other complexity your body might be facing.
  • Check what you consume: A good, healthy and balanced diet might help your kidney. A kidney friendly diet is imperative at this stage. Your dietician might recommend you certain foods depending on your blood and other test results. Your diet however must incorporate fresh fruits and veggies and discard salt, refined sugar, saturated food and processed foods. Quit smoking and alcohol consumption. Depending on your phosphorus and potassium levels, you would be advised to include or exclude certain food items in your diet. Consult your doctor for the same. 
  • Exploring options: This stage is when your doctor would discuss options with you if there is a kidney failure in future. Kidney failure is treated through: Hemodialysis, Peritoneal dialysis or Kidney transplant. Exploring these options at this stage helps to prepare for any future mishap.

Stage 5:

  • Also known as the End Stage Renal Disease, the last stage of CKD is marked by eGFR that falls below 15.
  • This stage denotes the fact that the patient’s kidneys are failing or close to failing.
  • The symptoms of this stage are more or less the same as the previous stage but only greater in intensity. Since the kidneys are severely damaged, the overall functioning of the body is turned upside down. Some of these symptoms are:
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme tiredness and shortness of breath
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting
  • Change in urine texture, colour and frequency
  • Change in skin colour or/and pigmentation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling in eyes, legs, hands or lower back
  • Uremia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme headaches
  • Treatment options for a patient that is diagnosed with stage 5 of kidney disease are:
  • Pay constant visits to your nephrologist: it is imperative for you to go for regular check-ups with your kidney doctor, where you would discuss your treatment options depending on the severity of the disease and the damage that it is doing to the body. Since the kidney is unable to function on its own, it requires help in different forms.
  • Treatment options might include:
  • Hemodialysis: It is a procedure whereby a dialysis machine or artificial kidney or dialyzer is used to clean your blood and get rid of the excess fluid, waste and toxins that are build-up. In order to get your blood in the dialyzer, a small surgery is done; this surgery helps approach the blood vessels and access the blood. The blood flows into the machine, is filtered and returned back into the body. Generally, this treatment can be done at a hospital, dialysis centre (3 times per week for 4 hours) or home (4-7 times per week for shorter hours). This treatment has proven to improve the overall well-being of the patients, allowing them to live a long and healthy life.

Risk factors or side effects of this treatment include: muscle cramps, itching, high blood pressure, insomnia, anemia, weak bones or bone diseases, inflammation, fluid overboard, depression etc.

  • Peritoneal dialysis: Another treatment option to get rid of excess waste from your blood, this route is different fromhemodialysis. A couple of weeks before this treatment, the doctor places a soft tube known as catheter in the belly. The dialysis solution is then flown from a bag into the catheter and therefore into the belly. The dialysis solution works to pull out waste and extra fluid from the body and into the empty bag. The process is then repeated. This blood solution uses the blood vessels in the lining of the abdomen to clean the blood. This treatment can be done with a machine or manually, at the comfort of your home, your work place or anywhere else in general.

Some complications that may accompany this treatment are: weight gain, hernia or infections. You need to completely avoid swimming in a lake or taking baths in hot tubs etc. as it may increase the risk of infection.

  • Kidney transplant: This is a surgical procedure whereby a healthy kidney is donated by a living or a deceased individual and is then placed in the patient’s body, whose kidneys have damaged beyond repair. A successful kidney transplant would mean that the patient’s body can now function normally and perform all its tasks efficiently and you get to live the life you were living before you were diagnosed with this disease.

You might need to take anti-rejection medicines and you must be healthy enough to be allowed to undergo a surgery and strict regulatory regimen. It is essential that you follow all the instructions given to you by the doctor in order to make the transplant a successful surgery.

  • Kidney friendly diet to the rescue: Eating right provides the path to recovery for patients with kidney disease. This stage requires that you consume protein, calories and minerals in the right amount; all within your prescribed calorie limit. Seeking help from your dietician is advised, since they would monitor and manage what goes in your mouth by carefully examining various blood tests. A healthy balance of minerals, proteins, phosphorus etc. is needed and that is where your registered dietician comes handy. Some food items that are recommended are:
  • Beans, lentils, peas
  • Whole food
  • Unprocessed grains such as quinoa and oatmeal
  • Nuts and seeds

However, you must consult your dietician and follow a strict plan; a diet plan which is carefully personalised for you.

  • Lifestyle changes: Say your goodbyes to smoking and drinking alcohol and start embracing smart choices such as regular exercise or yoga/meditation. You must also take care of your mental health by joining a support group of people dealing with CKD and its complications.

Chronic Kidney Disease is complex. Its intensity grows until it is unmanageable. However, if it is diagnosed in the early stages, the damage might get delayed and you might score a higher chance of living a smooth life. Every stage poses its individual problems that need to be targeted, tackled and treated to its core. You must strive to:

  • Learn and understand your symptoms
  • Recognise the root cause
  • Attack these symptoms and complications via medicines and lifestyle changes
  • Enhance the likelihood of living a soulful and healthy life

A doctor must be consulted immediately if you are diagnosed with this toxic disease. Do not try to treat it by yourself at home without professional guidance.

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