Kidney disease is a growing concern for people over the age of 60. Recent estimates indicate that almost half of the senior population over age 75 have some form of kidney disease.
Kidney disease can sneak up on you before you are aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.
It is important to know how to recognize the signs of kidney infection in the elderly, how to identify the causes of decreased kidney function in the elderly, and how to improve kidney function in the elderly.
Kidney Function in Elderly Adults
Our blood is filtered through the kidneys. Declining kidney function in the elderly can trigger health problems ranging from simple kidney infections in the elderly, to the kidneys shutting down in elderly patients.
Let’s look at some of the signs of kidney failure and kidney disease in the elderly population so we can understand what causes kidney failure in elderly adults.
The importance of early diagnosis and subsequent treatment is imperative to assure the best possible quality of life for our loved ones.
- Diabetes is one of the major causes of kidney disease in elderly adults. Damage to the kidneys can occur even if the diabetes is controlled by diet or medication.
- Gender plays a part in the onset of chronic kidney failure in the elderly. Women are more likely than men to suffer from urinary tract infections as they age.
- Infections can lead to chronic kidney failure in the elderly population. Proper toileting hygiene is essential, especially if your loved one is unable to manage toileting without assistance.
- High Blood Pressure can cause damage to the kidneys as well as the heart.
- Renovascular Disease is a narrowing of the artery that leads to the kidney. As this condition progresses, the narrowing of the vessel prohibits adequate blood flow to the kidney. This leads to decreased kidney function in elderly people that can result in chronic kidney failure and eventual kidney shut down.
Kidney Stones in Elderly Adults
A kidney stone is made up of minerals and salts in the urine that clump together and harden, forming a stone in the kidney. These stones start small but can grow larger with time.
As they grow larger, they can travel down the ureter and become lodged there, causing extreme pain and blockage of the flow of urine.
Most kidney stones can pass on their own, but the process can sometimes take one to two weeks.
If the kidney stone is large, or lodged in the ureter, medical intervention might be necessary.
Signs and Symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Shooting Pain in the groin, abdomen and back
- Blood in the urine
- Inability to pass urine
- Fever and chills
- Foul smelling or dark urine
Kidney stones treatment in elderly patients depends on the size and location of the stones. If the stone is small enough, it may pass on its own.
Drinking plenty of water can help the process along. If the stone is too large to pass on its own, an ultrasound shock wave might be necessary to dislodge it.
Surgery might be necessary in extreme cases. If it becomes impossible to pass urine, if bleeding is excessive or if an infection develops, surgery becomes the only option.
Can You Avoid Kidney Stones?
Not all kidney stones can be avoided. Some people have a genetic susceptibility to kidney stones. Others have chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
Risk Factors You Can Control Include
- Avoid excess sugar and sodium in your diet
- Drink plenty of water to increase urine volume
- Reduce the amount of animal protein in your diet
- Control your blood pressure and diabetes
Kidney Infection in Elderly Adults
A kidney infection can be debilitating for an elderly person. The infection not only causes pain and discomfort, but a urinary tract infection (UTI) can also cause confusion and other symptoms of dementia.
UTI’s can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics.
If you suspect that you or an elderly person in your care has a kidney infection, a trip to the doctor’s office is essential for diagnosis and recovery.
Symptoms of a kidney infection can include the following:
- Dark or discolored urine
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Urine has a bad odor
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Swelling in the hands, ankles, feet or face
- Mild nausea
- Fever and chills
Early detection is your only protection against complications. If left untreated, a simple kidney infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause a severe blood infection that will require hospitalization and IV antibiotics.
Kidney Disease in Elderly Adults
The function of the kidneys is to eliminate excess fluid from the body and to remove waste products. The kidneys also help to manufacture red blood cells and maintain a balance of nutrients in the body.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a public health crisis that affects approximately 37 million people in the United States. CKD causes wastes to build up in your body and can contribute to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, weak bones and nerve damage.
Declining kidney function in elderly people can be measured in stages.
The life expectancy of a person with chronic kidney disease depends on factors such as the stage of the disease, the person’s age, the person’s sex, genetic history, and the general health of the person.
Kidney Failure in Elderly Adults
Kidney failure occurs when your body can no longer filter toxic wastes from your body. The transition between chronic kidney disease and kidney failure can happen suddenly. Kidney failure requires immediate and intensive medical intervention, or it can be fatal.
If you or your loved one displays the following symptoms of kidney failure you should seek medical help.
- Chest pain
- Severe swelling
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased urine output
What Happens When Kidneys Fail in Elderly People?
Kidney failure can be chronic, or it can occur suddenly. Decreased urine output, fluid retention, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, nausea and weakness can all be signs of kidney failure in the elderly.
Kidney transplantation might be an option for an elderly person with advanced kidney disease. Transplantation can improve the quality of life over dialysis for some elderly kidney transplant recipients.
Although the removal of a kidney (Nephrectomy) is generally a safe surgery, the potential risks of kidney removal in the elderly are bleeding, infection, and injury to nearby organs.
Treatment Options and Home Care
In the early stages, kidney disease is controlled by treating the factors that contribute to the progression of the disease: blood pressure, treating diabetes, regulating or eliminating the use of nephrotoxic medications such as NSAIDs.
As the disease progresses, kidney dialysis for the elderly might be discussed. The doctor can explain the pros and cons of dialysis for the aging patient.
Studies have shown that dialysis may not significantly improve survival for elderly kidney failure patients and that conservative care is a reasonable alternative to the rigors of dialysis for patients over the age of 75.
Acute kidney injury in the elderly can result from something as simple as dehydration or from blood loss from an injury or overuse of certain medications. It is important to assess and treat these potential sources of kidney disease and kidney failure.
Palliative Care for kidney failure in elderly patients is an option that focuses on pain management, symptom management, communication with the patient and their family, spiritual support and guidance and overall comfort measures in the end stages of renal failure.
A palliative care consultant can meet with the patient and the family to determine whether palliative care is a viable option.
Kidney problems in elderly adults have a wide range of symptoms and treatment options. Families and patients need to understand what happens when kidneys fail in elderly patients so they can make decisions regarding the best treatment plan for their loved one.
The physician and palliative care team can meet with families as the patient goes through each stage of the disease. Together they can devise a specialized treatment plan that focuses on the specific medical needs and personal desires of the patient.