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National Kidney Month: Can Kidney Disease Be Reversed?

March is National Kidney Month, which means it’s a good time to study some literature and find out if you are at risk for kidney disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation, over 30 million Americans already have kidney disease, but most don’t know it because the disease is usually not apparent until the kidneys are already significantly impaired. One in three Americans should consider getting tested for kidney disease if they have qualifiers such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney issues, especially at an older age when the disease becomes more prevalent. The exacerbation of the disease can be prevented if diagnosed early enough, but there is no solid research to prove that reversing kidney disease is possible.

Managing Kidney Issues

There are a couple different kinds of kidney issues. While no one knows how to reverse kidney disease, Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) is less severe and can be reversed before it develops into kidney disease. AKI is usually brought on by an event, such as dehydration, blood loss from injury or major surgery, or the use of some medicines.

If occurring post-major surgery, or once a doctor diagnoses it, a person suffering from AKI is usually kept in the hospital where a doctor can treat whatever has caused it. In more severe cases, this can mean using dialysis to replace kidney function until the kidneys recover.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD is one of the most serious but common results of unmanaged diabetes symptoms, which is why diabetics must be tested for kidney disease and constantly monitored for any developing symptoms of CKD. While these two long-term health illnesses are the most common causes, CKD can also be caused by cardiovascular disease, prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract, smoking, obesity, and can even just come with old age. Knowing the habits that increase your risk factor can help you develop new habits to avoid or slow CKD.

Controlling Kidney Disease

Diet factors into many long-term diseases, including kidney disease. Most Americans consume an average of 48 to 75 percent more protein than necessary each day. Diets that have too much protein have been proven to increase a person’s risk of developing kidney stones, as well as reduced kidney function in individuals who already have kidney issues. Decreasing protein intake to the recommended level and consuming the recommended daily dose of fiber can help control symptoms of diabetes and improve heart health, which can improve kidney health.

Another way to control kidney health is by reducing use of NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen). These over-the-counter painkillers are used to treat a variety of symptoms, such as arthritis pain and sore muscles, but are often overused, which can be harmful to kidney health. According to an infographic from Regis College, NSAIDs block the creation of prostaglandins, which are autocrine and paracrine lipid mediators that increase blood flow and cause swelling. By blocking the creation of prostaglandins, swelling is avoided and pain is muted; however, the reduced blood flow to the kidneys caused by long term use of NSAIDS is what causes kidney damage.

If you’re a senior living with kidney conditions, there are ways to slow the progression of kidney disease. Since your chances of developing kidney disease increase with age, it’s important to do what you can to stay healthy: avoid dehydration, manage your long-term illnesses, maintain a healthy diet, and be conservative with your use of NSAIDs. There is no way to reverse kidney disease, so it’s important to do what you can to ensure your kidneys stay as healthy as possible.