World Kidney Day: Are you taking good care of your kidneys? Here's how you can

Minor lifestyle changes, regardless of whether you suffer from it or not, can help your kidneys' health.

The two bean-shaped organs we called kidneys are at the heart of many critical functions in the body's renal system. From removing waste and excess fluids as urine by filtering the blood to keeping a check on the body’s salt, potassium, and acid levels, these 150-170 gram-organs perform these life-sustaining tasks and more for the body.

To raise awareness about its significance, World Kidney Day – a global awareness campaign – was started in 2006. Observed on the 2nd Thursday every March, 88 countries around the world follow this yearly drive to highlight and educate people about kidney disease, its impact, prevention and management.

'Kidney disease' is used to describe a host of disorders related to this fist-sized organ located in between the upper and back sides of the abdomen. The lower ribs protected them from physical damage. But there are other ways kidney function can fail, and some are far more common than others.

 World Kidney Day: Are you taking good care of your kidneys? Heres how you can

Kidney disease affects 1 in 10 people worldwide.

Chronic Kidney Disease

In Chronic Kidney Disease, the functioning of the organ slows down gradually and kidneys become non-functioning in a matter of months to years. The end result is permanent kidney failure, which can lead to death if left untreated with dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Though CKD has five stages, the final stage, where the kidney works less at less than 15 percent of a normal kidney is End-Stage Renal Failure (ESRF).

There are many preventable causes for CKD, the single most important one being uncontrolled diabetes. The scenario is made worse if high blood pressure and smoking are also factors to consider apart from diabetes.

Another preventable cause, particularly in an Indian context, is renal tract stone disease. Having stones in the kidneys or ureter, whether silent or with a history of ignored abdomen pain off and on, are a leading cause for kidney failure as well. People who have multiple bouts of urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more prone to stones. So are people with high uric acid blood levels.

Another risk factor for kidney disease is prolonged use of drugs that damage the kidneys, like Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), certain antibiotics, even some drugs used to treat hypertension.

Risk factors of chronic kidney disease. Image courtesy: Siemens Healthcare

Risk factors of chronic kidney disease. Image courtesy: Siemens Healthcare

NSAIDs are used to treat a host of conditions like fever, different kinds of pain (indomethacin, brufen, naproxen, etc), but they can also reduce the amount of blood flow to the kidneys. People with pre-existing heart, liver or kidney conditions are at even higher risk of kidney damage when taking NSAIDs.

Some antibiotics can be harmful to the kidneys, so taking antibiotics without consulting your doctor is never a good idea.

If you are placed on drugs like diuretics or ACE inhibitors to treat blood pressure problems or glaucoma, follow up with tests and doctor consultation as advised.

Acute Kidney Injury

Acute Kidney Injury is usually what follows after an accident or sudden injury to the kidney. In many cases, this can be reversed if adequate medical care can be given without delay.

Around 175,000 new cases of kidney failure (stage V CKD) are diagnosed in India every year, as per the Indian Society of Nephrology (INS) statistics from 2017. These people either require dialysis and/or kidney transplantation as a form of medical treatment.

CKD is fairly common, with 1 in 10 people said to be suffering from some or the other form of kidney disorder. The worldwide number is predicted at 850 million as per the World Kidney Day organization. Of all the CKD patients worldwide, approximately 2.4 million cases end up fatal per year. It also happens to be the 6th fastest growing cause of death globally.

Symptoms of kidney disease

It is important to be cognizant of the below early warnings of this disease. Though, many times, there are no marked early symptoms.

Here are some common ones to watch out for:

  • Increase in the amount of urine, especially later at night
  • Fatigue and Drowsiness
  • Poor appetite
  • Swelling and Muscle cramping of feet and ankles
  • Morning puffiness around the eyes

In case, there are more apparent symptoms in people in whom the disease is leading to kidney failure, and a doctor should be consulted immediately:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Extensive loss of appetite
  • A decrease in the amount of urine
  • Anaemia
  • Unexpected increase in potassium levels

Diagnosis of kidney disease

Kidney disease can be detected by the doctor after performing certain tests to check the functionality of the organ.

The common kidney tests that are performed are a blood Kidney Function Test, including blood urea and creatinine, as well as a urine routine test. Imaging tests like an ultrasound and CT scan are also used to gauge changes in the kidney and urinary tract or to detect stones.

Depending on the results of these your doctor may want to conduct further tests

Kidney disease and how to prevent it. Image courtesy: JAMA Network

Kidney disease and how to prevent it. Image courtesy: JAMA Network

Preventing kidney disease 

Genetic factors, family history, etc. certainly have a dominant role to play in some forms of kidney disease. But the good news is that being mindful of certain things can avert it.

To avoid getting kidney disease, a urine examination, monitoring of your BP, keeping your diabetes under control and healthy lifestyle including healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, low salt intake and exercise are some ways to prevent.

Early management of CKD

Even in early stages of compromised kidney functions, lifestyle changes will help. But, it is important to try and locate the cause of the malfunction so it can be treated or reversed as best as possible.

Once CKD has been diagnosed, the best way to try and slow its decline is regular followups with a nephrologist or physician.

Advanced management of CKD

Eventually, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be needed as the disease approaches kidney failure, and the patient needs to be put on a transplant list.

[An appeal to the reader here: registering for organ donation is a huge help for people unfortunate enough with a condition like ESRD to get a second lease of life.]

This World Kidney Day, let’s make minor lifestyle changes – regardless of whether you are someone suffering from the disease or not.

As kidney disease usually does not go away with medications or time and has the tendency of worsening over time, it is better to take small steps at the right time. After all, the kidneys do perform some critical functions for all of us.

The author is a Senior consultant in the medical team at


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