Guest Author - Mystic Ransdell
Our kidneys are incredible. Not only do they perform many functions to keep us healthy, but they are also quite resilient. Those two organs may be small, but they are mighty!
Sometimes, however, even the mighty can fall. Over time, unhealthy eating practices, chronic obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or simply too much medication can cause our kidneys to weaken, making it much harder for them to do their job. Fortunately, the earlier kidney disease is caught, the earlier it can be treated, prolonging kidney health and their ability to function as they should.
There are five known stages of Chronic Kidney Disease. The stages of kidney disease are assessed primarily through the GFR test. The GRF Test (Glomerular Filtration Rate) measures the level of serum creatinine in the blood. Creatinine is a waste product created by muscle activity and when our kidneys weaken, the creatinine levels in our blood rise. If you develop Chronic Kidney Disease, your GFR is one of the important numbers you must know, because it directly corralates to the stage of kidney disease you are in.
At this stage, your GFR number will be 90 mL/min or more. You will mostly likely have no symptoms at all to lead you to believe that there is a problem. Most people in stage one only learn of the issue through blood work done for other reasons.
At Stage one, treatment primarily focuses on the diet. Eat a healthy diet of whole grains, lean proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid eating too much salt or sugar and make sure that you get some exercise and activity in your day. If you are overweight, this is a good time to work on that. If you smoke, this is one more good reason to quit. If your doctor prescribes you medication, take it as directed.
At Stage Two, your GFR number will be somewhere between 60-89 mL/min, signaling the development of mild CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease). You likely will feel no symptoms at this stage.
As with stage one, treatment at stage two is also primarily focused on eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and physical activity, and living a healthy lifestyle. If you are on medications for any reason, make sure you take them as directed. If you are diabetic or have high blood pressure, it is very important that you make lifestyle choices that support your health. Do not drink excessively, quit smoking if you need to, and do your best to maintain a healthy weight.
Stage three is considered moderate CKD and things begin to get a bit more serious. At this stage, your GFR number will be somewhere between 30-59 mL/min and you may feel some symptoms that let you know there is an issue. You may experience fatigue and shortness of breath, and you may notice that your extremities are becoming swollen. Changes in your urine - colors of orange, brown, or red, foamy urine, or just finding that you're urinating a lot more or less than usual are common symptoms. You may notice that you are having issues with leg cramps or pain in your back, making it more difficult to get a good night of sleep.
At Stage three, dietary support is still incredibly important. Diet is always your first line of defense when it comes to keeping your body healthy. But in addition to eating whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing the amount of salt and sugar in your diet, you also may be told to reduce the amount of calcium you ingest. Your doctor may prescribe medication for you at this stage, as well.
Stage Four CKD is considered severe. At Stage 4, your GFR number will be between 15-29 mL/min and you will most likely be feeling some real symptoms. You are more likely to feel many of the symptoms discussed at Stage three, but in addition, you may also experience nausea or vomiting, a metallic taste in your mouth, and that you are suffering from "brain fog" and having a hard time concentrating.
At Stage four, your primary care doctor will need to refer you to a Nephrologist (a doctor specializing in kidney disease) and you will begin to be tested and monitored much more regularly. Continue to eat a healthy diet and make a point of getting good activity in your day as much as possible. In addition to dietary support and healthy lifestyle choices, your doctor will probably begin to talk with you about dialysis or the possibility of a kidney transplant.
The most serious stage of CKD is Stage Five - considered End Stage CKD. Your GFR number at this point will be less than 15 mL/min and you must be on dialysis or receive a kidney transplant in order to continue a healthy life. Your symptoms may be quite severe, even with treatment, and without proper treatment, your life is in peril.
Dialysis is the most common treatment for CKD at this point, as the waiting list for a Kidney transplant can be quite long sometimes. Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle choices is of supreme importance, as to reduce the stress on your body as much as possible.
No matter what stage of kidney disease you may be experiencing, maintaining a positive attitude goes a long way. Do your best to not allow negativity and fear to fill your mind. Many people go through regular dialysis treatments for years, living happy and fulfilling lives. Although the waiting list for a kidney transplant can be long, the healthier your lifestyle choices are, the higher your chances for a transplant. Remember, everyone has two kidneys. This means that someone can donate a kidney to a patient in need, and many people do. Learning you have Chronic Kidney Disease is not the end of the world. With the right treatment and a positive outlook, you can continue to enjoy many years of happiness and health.