As World Kidney Day falls on 14 March this year, we thought it would be good to talk about this vital organ – the kidney, and about kidney health in women.
What are kidneys?
The kidneys are bean-shaped and approximately fist-sized organs, that are located below the ribcage, towards your lower back, usually on either side of your spine.
Most people are born with 2 kidneys. It is possible to live a healthy life with only one healthy functioning kidney. This world kidney day let us take a step ahead to help the ones in need by signing up for organ donation.
What are the functions of your kidneys?
The kidneys filter your blood, removing wastes, toxins and excess fluid to produce urine. They maintain the fluid balance in the body and also regulate blood pressure and red blood cell production. Kidneys also help in maintaining the pH balance of the body and keeping bones healthy.
How can you maintain your kidneys health?
- Healthy fluid intake: The recommended intake is 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily
- Eat healthy food: Fresh fruits like apples, pineapples, berries; vegetables like bell peppers, cauliflower, onions.
- Limit salt intake: Approximately 1 teaspoon is the recommended daily intake. Cut down on processed and canned food as they are high in salt content.
- Control your blood sugar: Diabetes is one of the causes of kidney disease
- Control blood pressure: Hypertension can cause kidney damage
- Maintain a healthy body weight: Stay fit and active
- Avoid smoking: Smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys
- Limit the use of over-the-counter medicines: Kidneys filter out the by-products of many drugs, which can sometimes block urine flow or cause damage to the kidneys. (You can talk to your doctor for kidney safe medication)
Symptoms of kidney disease:
Kidney diseases can often go undetected, as there may be no symptoms at all. Sometimes symptoms develop slowly and are not specific to kidney disease. Routine blood and urine tests would be able to detect possible kidney disease. There are also specific kidney function tests (blood and urine) for more detailed analysis.
However, the following symptoms require the attention of a doctor as they may likely indicate kidney disease
- Swelling (edema) in the body: The swelling may be around the eyes and face early in the morning, and may move to the feet, ankles and legs towards the end of the day. This happens due to fluid retention in the body.
- Changes in the amount and frequency of urination: Decreased urine output or increase in the frequency of urination, especially at night.
- Foamy urine: This happens when there is protein leak from the kidneys into the urine, known as proteinuria.
- Reddish-brown/tea colored urine: This could indicate hematuria, the leak of red blood cells in the urine. Any persistent change in urine color requires medical attention.
Women and kidney health:
As we celebrate both Women’s day and World Kidney Day this fortnight, it is fitting to mention cases of kidney disease which are more common and specific to women.
UTI or urinary tract infections are more common in girls and women due to our anatomy. Left untreated, the infection may spread upstream and affect the kidneys as well. Hence, do not ignore symptoms of UTI, and get treatment at the earliest. Recurrent UTI also increases the risk of kidney disease.
SLE (commonly known as lupus) is an auto-immune disease (a disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues). It is majorly seen in young women. Lupus can cause damage to the kidneys.
Maternity and kidney health:
Always inform your doctor about any pre-existing history of kidney disease so that the risks in pregnancy can be reduced.
Preeclampsia: Women who have experienced preeclampsia during pregnancy are at a higher risk of kidney disease due to the increased blood pressure. Proper treatment can greatly reduce the risks.
Abortions: Improper abortions can also result in complications that may cause injury to the kidneys.
Kidney disease in children:
Throat infections (strep throat) left untreated, can cause kidney disease, especially in children. It is caused as an immune response resulting from the body fighting off the bacteria causing the throat infection. Hence it is important to get proper treatment for throat infections.
Hope this article has been informative to you. We would like to hear your feedback in the comments section.