What you need to know about kidney disease

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Seniors are very much aware that many diseases become more common with increasing age. Conditions like heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s comes quickly to mind, but many people do not think of kidney disease. This can develop at any age, but as we grow older, so do our kidneys, making seniors more vulnerable. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have estimated that more than half of seniors over 75 have some degree of kidney disease. Unfortunately, many do not know it.

Often, kidney disease develops slowly, showing few symptoms. Many seniors do not realize they have it until the disease is advanced and the damage is irreparable. The Centers for Disease Control states that kidney disease kills more people than prostate or breast cancer. There are over 98,000 Americans on the national organ transplant waitlist waiting for a suitable donor kidney. This life-saving procedure is by far the most common transplant operation.

Awareness of kidney disease, especially in seniors, is the first step in stopping or slowing its progression. If chronic kidney disease (CKD) is detected early, medications can help control it and lifestyle changes are often effective. If the disease continues untreated, more serious remedies like kidney dialysis or organ transplant may be needed.

Early detection is essential and that means routine checkups, usually by your primary care doctor. These checkups will involve a simple test to measure the amount of albumin (a type of protein) in your urine. Repeated tests that find protein in the urine are an indicator of kidney disease. These simple tests are vital for those who are at risk of developing CKD and should be part of routine preventive care.

Age is the most common risk factor for developing CKD. That is why this is so important for seniors to be aware of kidney disease. As we grow older, kidney function declines, just as knees wear out or vision deteriorates. Other medical problems like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are also risk factors for CKD. If you suffer from any of these problems, your doctor should consider your risk of developing kidney issues.

Besides risk factors, there are some symptoms that may indicate the presence of undetected CKD. These include frequent waking up at night to urinate, foamy or bubbly urine, or changes in urinary frequency. These symptoms should be reported to your doctor so the right tests can be taken.

As with so many medical problems, the best treatment for CKD is early detection and prompt treatment. This means routine checkups, even in times of a pandemic. As Dr. Patel says, “Better health today for a better tomorrow.”

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