The key to prevention or delay of severe kidney disease is early detection and aggressive intervention -- while there's still time to slow down the progression to kidney failure. Medical care with early intervention can change the course of chronic kidney disease and prevent the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Diabetes and high blood pressure account for two thirds of all cases of chronic kidney disease. By aggressively managing diabetes and high blood pressure with diet, exercise, and medications, you may be able to prevent kidney failure and help keep as much kidney function as possible.
Early detection is the first step in treating chronic kidney disease. The symptoms of kidney disease may include:
Nausea and vomiting
Passing only small amounts of urine
Swelling, particularly of the ankles, and puffiness around the eyes
Unpleasant taste in the mouth and urine-like odor to the breath
Persistent fatigue or shortness of breath
Loss of appetite
Increasingly higher blood pressure
Muscle cramps, especially in the legs
Since diabetes and high blood pressure put you at risk of kidney disease, know where you stand with these risks. Do you have diabetes or high blood pressure? If so, are they under control?
If you can, find out if diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease runs in your family. Certain ethnic groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are at higher risk of chronic kidney disease, as are senior citizens.
Get Tested Regularly
At your next checkup, and at least within the next year if you haven't had these tests done:
Ask for a urine test to see if you have excess protein, glucose, or blood in the urine.
Ask for a blood pressure reading, to see if your blood pressure is elevated.
Ask for a fasting blood glucose test, to see if you have too much glucose (sugar) in your blood. Another blood test that can be used to determine diabetes is a hemoglobin A1C which will indicate your average blood glucose level over the past two to three months.
Ask for a creatinine test. This blood test measures the amount of waste from muscle activity. When the kidneys are not working properly, the creatinine rises.
If any of these tests are abnormal, your health care provider will need to do other tests to more clearly define the problem.
If you have diabetes, work with your health care provider to keep your blood sugar levels under the best possible control. A program of diet, regular exercise, glucose monitoring, and medications to control blood sugars and protect kidney function can help.
Control High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, work with your health care provider to get your blood pressure within target ranges. A program of diet, regular exercise, and medications can help.
Consider Seeing a Nephrologist
If you've already lost some kidney function, or your health care provider tells you that you're likely to have more kidney damage in the future, ask for a referral to a nephrologist (a kidney disease specialist). A nephrologist can provide specialized testing, evaluate your condition, and talk with you about possible ways to slow down the progress of kidney disease.