Special to Iredell Free News
Did you know your body has its very own self-cleaning system? It’s your kidneys! Every 30 minutes, your kidneys filter all the blood in your body, removing waste, toxins and excess fluids. Without the essential work of your kidneys, your body would not have the clean blood it needs to function properly.
“March is National Kidney Month. It is a great time for us to think about how important our kidneys are,” said Dr. Joel Inman, physician at Family Care Center of Taylorsville.
The kidneys’ importance is not always understood, but they are just as vital to your health as your heart. According to Inman, your kidneys perform many life-sustaining functions, including:
• Removing waste products from your body;
• Removing drugs from your body;
• Maintaining a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals (such as sodium, potassium, and calcium);
• Releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure;
• Producing an active form of Vitamin D that promotes strong bones; and
• Controlling the production of red blood cells
Kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease, occurs when your kidneys are damaged and are less able to do the crucial functions mentioned above. According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), nearly 37 million Americans are estimated to have kidney disease.
Kidney disease is an under-recognized public health crisis, causing more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer.
Chronic kidney disease is known as a “silent condition,” meaning most of those with the disease have no symptoms. In fact, according to the NKF, approximately 90 percent of those with kidney disease are unaware they have it.
But that’s when it can become dangerous. Without early treatment, chronic kidney disease may lead to complications like anemia and nerve damage and increase your risk for heart and blood vessel disease. Eventually, chronic kidney disease can progress into kidney failure, also called end-stage renal failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
If kidney disease is not found early and progresses to later stages, symptoms may include fatigue, dry and itchy skin, swelling of your feet and ankles, urinating too much or too little, and blood in your urine.
“Chronic kidney disease predominately affects people over 65 years of age, in women slightly more than men. However, younger people can develop chronic kidney disease if they have uncontrolled medical diseases such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), or heart disease,” said Inman.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are responsible for two-thirds of chronic kidney disease cases.
According to the NKF, other conditions that can cause kidney disease include glomerulonephritis, inherited diseases like polycystic kidney disease, kidney and urinary tract abnormalities before birth, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus nephritis.
Other factors that may put you at risk for developing chronic kidney disease include family history, smoking, and obesity.
Protecting Your Kidneys
Taking steps to protect your kidney function is important for everyone, but especially for those who are at risk for kidney disease.
“Prevention is a great first step. This includes eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying well hydrated, getting plenty of exercise, losing weight if necessary, stopping smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and taking caution with over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen,” said Inman.
If you have one of the medical conditions that may lead to chronic kidney disease, it’s crucial to work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your conditions.
“Good control of diabetes and hypertension, for example, can help to preserve kidney function. Regular follow-up appointments with labs will help to monitor your kidney function,” said Inman.
Even if you do not have a condition that leads to kidney disease, it is still imperative to see your healthcare provider for regular checkups, as early detection of kidney disease is key.
“Talk with your medical provider about setting a schedule for physical exams with screening labs that would help to detect a problem with your kidneys before you develop chronic kidney disease,” said Inman.
Inman practices at the Family Care Center of Taylorsville, located at 1668 NC Highway 16 in Taylorsville. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Inman, call 828-632-9736.
About Iredell Health System
Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Mooresville; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,800 employees; and has approximately 365 healthcare providers representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The Health System’s newest campus, Iredell Mooresville, is home to the area’s only 24-hour urgent care facility, as well as an ambulatory surgery center, imaging center, rehabilitation services, and physician practices. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.