What Is Chronic Kidney Disease and What Are Some Conditions Commonly Associated with It?

Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which kidney function is lost at a gradual pace. Chronic kidney disease can progress to chronic kidney failure in time and neither is reversible. 

No symptoms are typically experienced within the early stages of chronic kidney disease. As chronic kidney disease progresses, symptoms may include frequent urination, fatigue, twitching, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, nausea, sleep disruption, high blood pressure, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction, swelling of feet or ankles, shortness of breath, decreased mental acuity and chest pain.

Causes can range from diabetes and high blood pressure, to autoimmune diseases and nephritis. Kidney stones and other obstructions can also lead to kidney failure. The diagnosis of chronic kidney disease typically includes kidney function and flow tests, hormone testing, urine tests for blood or protein, an ultrasound to look for obstructions and possibly a kidney biopsy.

Treatment of chronic kidney disease can include medications to treat high blood pressure, statins to lower cholesterol, anemia medication, diuretics to treat swelling, vitamin D and calcium supplements to help protect blood vessels and, in more severe cases, dialysis and kidney transplant. Nutrition management includes a low salt, low potassium, low protein diet.

The kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from blood through urination. When the kidneys are not performing properly, a variety of subsequent conditions can occur, one of which is anemia. Anemia affects over 37 million adults in the United States alone and one out of every seven people with kidney disease. 

So why is anemia commonly associated with chronic kidney disease? When kidneys are damaged, they produce less erythropoietin, a hormone that tells bone marrow to create more red blood cells. Anemia is what happens when blood contains a lower than normal amount of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. When the red blood cell count is depleted, the tissues and organs within the body may not have enough oxygen to properly function. Anemia may develop in the early stages of chronic kidney failure and worsen as chronic kidney failure progresses.

Symptoms of anemia in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease may include fatigue, weakness, body aches, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness, headaches, pale skin, sleep disorders and trouble concentrating.

In order to properly diagnose anemia, there will be a medical history review, a physical exam and blood tests. Anemia is commonly treated with supplements or iron, vitamins and medicines including erythropoiesis agents. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be necessary. Foods which can help manage anemia and proper kidney health include those with high amounts of iron, B12 and folate.

Uremic frost also shares an association with chronic kidney disease. Uremic frost is when these crystalized urea deposits develop on the skin due to chronic kidney disease. Basically, what happens is that when kidney failure is prolonged, high levels of urea within the blood are secreted through the sweat and crystalize the area.

Patients presenting uremic frost symptoms usually complain of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weight loss and muscle cramps. Diagnosis of uremic frost is attained by testing skin scrapings for nitrogen levels. Patients with uremia are at a higher risk of cardiac episodes and stroke. Uremia treatment may require emergent dialysis or kidney transplant.

Glomerulonephritis, a condition which is also related to chronic kidney disease, is an inflammation of glomeruli, tiny filters within the kidney that remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from the blood through urine. Acute or chronic nephritis is most common in people who have undergone surgery on the bladder, uterus or kidneys, as well as those with a family history. Glomerulonephritis can be caused by infections including strep throat, impetigo, bacterial infections and viral infections such as HIV and hepatitis. It can also be caused by diseases like lupus and various forms of vasculitis. Complications of glomerulonephritis can result in various conditions including chronic kidney failure.

Symptoms of glomerulonephritis may include pink or cola colored urine, foamy urine, high blood pressure and fluid retention in the face, hands, feet and abdomen. Diagnosis may consist of a urine test for protein, a blood test for nitrogen, CT scans of abdomen and pelvis in search for kidney or urinary tract blockages or inflammation, x-rays for related organ assessment, ultrasound to show kidney function and size.

A low fat diet with fruits and vegetables and the avoidance of an overabundance of proteins, salt, rich food and fatty food is suggested. Treatment may consist of corticosteroids such as prednisone, immunosuppressants to treat lupus nephritis, antibiotics to treat bacterial infections and diuretics for the treatment of swelling. More severe cases may require dialysis or a kidney transplant. The best prevention of glomerulonephritis is prompt treatment of strep or impetigo, safe sex and needle use as well as proper management of high blood pressure and blood sugar.

Riverside Clinical Research, conveniently located at 1410 S. Ridgewood Avenue in Edgewater, is a highly acclaimed medical research facility that incorporates the services of clinical trial volunteers to help create a brighter future for all of us. 

The Riverside Clinical Research facility is presently clinical trials associated with proper kidney function and overall kidney health. If you are interested in making a contribution to the advancements in science and medicine by becoming a clinical study volunteer, feel free to call the Riverside Clinical Research professionals for more information at 386-428-7730 Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Friday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. You can also access the patient portal on riversideclinicalresearch.com to enroll with Riverside Clinical Research and receive information about Riverside Clinical Research studies conducted in your area.