March is National Kidney MonthThere are a lot of March Monthly Observances and Occurrences. Daylight Savings Time starts in March. We buy Girl Scout Cookies in March. We wear green and dance the Irish jig in March. And March comes in like lion and goes out like a lamb. And there is “beware the Ides of March.” One of the more serious things about March is that it is National Kidney month. So, in honor of that, we are offering free kidney screenings in March.
So, let’s take a look at what your kidneys do, how they work, and the types of things we might be screening for to protect your long-term health.
What are your kidneys and what do they do?
You have two kidneys. They are located in the lower middle of your back on either side of your spine, just above your waist. And yes, they are roughly kidney-shaped. Your kidneys perform several important roles in keeping you healthy. They cleanse your blood by removing waste and excess fluid. They also maintain the balance of salt and minerals in your blood and help regulate blood pressure.
When your kidneys are not working properly, waste products and fluid can build up in your body, causing swelling in your ankles. You might also feel week and vomit. You might sleep poorly and feel short of breath. If left untreated, severely damaged and non-functioning kidneys can be fatal.
Decreased kidney function that lasts longer than 3 months is called chronic kidney disease. The scary thing about chronic kidney disease is that you actually might not have any noticeable symptoms for a long time, until unfortunately, considerable kidney damage has occurred. This is why chronic kidney disease is particularly dangerous.
Diabetes (types 1 and 2), high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries (which damages the blood vessels in the kidney) are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease. Some other causes are:.
- Urinary Tract Infections. UTIs within the kidneys themselves can lead to scarring as the infection heals. Multiple episodes can lead to kidney damage.
- Immune system conditions, like lupus and chronic viral illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also cause kidney damage.
- Drugs and toxins, including long-term exposure to some medications and chemicals, such as NSAUDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen and naproxen and, and use of intravenous “street” drugs
- Some kidney diseases are caused by an inflammation of the kidneys, called nephritis. This may be due to an infection or to an autoimmune reaction where the body's immune or defense system attacks and damages the kidneys.
- Blockages of the system that drains the kidneys (which can occur with prostate problems).
Kidney Disease Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sleep problems
- Changes in urine output
- Decreased mental sharpness
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Persistent itching
- Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
- Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
- High blood pressure (hypertension) that's difficult to control
Ultrasound As Diagnosis Tool
Now that you can point to at least one symptom in the list above and say “hey, I have that sometimes”, and so now have one more thing to worry about – potential kidney disease, I am going to tell you that Ultrasound is a great tool to help diagnose kidney disease. And Ultrasound is easy, being non-invasive, and not painful.
In general, with chronic kidney disease, kidneys are shrunken in size, although they may be normal or even large in size in some cases. Ultrasound not only can give an accurate image of the size and shape of the kidneys, but may also be used to diagnose the presence of urinary obstruction, kidney stones and also to assess the blood flow into the kidneys. These are all powerful tools in analyzing kidney health. Should something look problematic, additional tests can then be pursued by your physician like urinary and blood tests.
So, come in and visit us and get your free Ultrasound.