Silent Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is such a “silent disease” that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 96% of the 30 million Americans who have CKD do not even know they have it. In fact, only about 4.9 million people have been officially diagnosed with CKD. This is not good because the earlier CKD is detected and treated the more likely it can be prevented from progressing to total kidney failure. Kidney failure calls for dialysis or a kidney transplant. Chronic kidney disease gets worse over time and may not be noticed until it reaches a dangerous state needing dialysis or a kidney transplant. Undiagnosed and untreated CKD can lead to premature death. CKD is the 9th leading cause of death in the United States.

Some Medical Drugs Raise the Risk for Kidney Damage and CKD

Another reason for catching CKD in its early treatable stages is because sometimes people are taking medical drugs which can speed up the road to kidney failure. There are many prescription drugs that carry a warning not to be prescribed to people with CKD. Also, there are over-the-counter drugs that do not need a doctor’s prescription like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can lead to kidney failure. NSAIDs are used to treat pain and so they are often used daily and over a long period of time. Two kinds of commonly used NSAIDs used to treat pain are Ibuprofen and naproxen. Talk it over with your doctor if you are taking NSAIDs to make sure you are not damaging your health.  This is why it is important to get tested for CKD.

How CKD is Diagnosed

There are relatively simple blood and urine tests that check for CKD:

A blood test to check how well your kidneys are filtering and purifying the blood called a glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

  • GFR result of 60 or higher is the normal range
  • GFR result of less than 60 may mean you have kidney disease
  • GFR result of 15 or less is kidney failure and this means you need dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant.

A blood test for creatinine in the blood

A urine test to check for albumen (protein) in the urine

Click here for a short video from the NIDDK about getting tested for CKD.

Who is at Risk for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Diabetics and people suffering from high blood pressure are especially at high risk for CKD. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) advises that diabetics should get checked every year for CKD. The NIDDK also recommends that people with high blood pressure, heart disease and a family history of CKD should consult with their doctors about how often they should be tested for CKD.

High Blood Pressure can be a Risk for Developing CKD but CKD can also Cause High Blood Pressure

While high blood pressure can lead to kidney disease, high blood pressure is often a result of kidney disease. Diseased kidneys have to work harder to do their job of clearing wastes and toxins out of the body and this in turn forces the heart to work harder and up goes the blood pressure. In fact high blood pressure may be the only symptom in early stages of CKD, so if you suffer from high blood pressure you should ask your doctor to send you for tests to measure how well the kidneys are functioning and also to check for CKD.

Other Risks for Developing CKD

Besides diabetes and high blood pressure there are also other risks for developing CKD such as:

  • Heart disease increases the risk for CKD and untreated CKD can also raise the risk for a heart attack.
  • Obesity raises the risk for diabetes and also for CKD.
  • If there is a family history of CKD this can raise the risk for getting CKD.

Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease

The number one way to prevent kidney disease is to manage high blood pressure. Unfortunately, high blood pressure is also a “silent disease” that causes no symptoms, but if untreated it can lead to heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease.

Lifestyle changes can help to prevent CKD like:

  • Be sure to drink enough good water every day.
  • Maintain a balanced weight and lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • Cut down on using too much salt and avoid salty foods. Salt raises blood pressure
  • Avoid processed meat. Processed meats are high in nitrates which have been associated with chronic kidney disease and processed meats are also very high in salt.
  • Get enough good sleep.
  • Quit smoking.

Conclusion

All seniors should ask their doctors about whether to be tested for these simple blood and urine tests to make sure their kidneys are in good working order, especially if they have diabetes, suffer from high blood pressure, have heart disease or a family history of CKD.

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