March is National Kidney Month, but one should be aware of kidney disease year-round. But just what is chronic kidney disease? Thirty-seven million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease, and millions more are at risk to join them, so the problem is more common than you might think. If untreated, kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, so let’s first identify the leading causes of kidney disease.

Two-thirds of chronic kidney disease cases are caused by the health conditions of hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes in patients. Other causes of kidney disease include autoimmune diseases and inherited diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease.

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Often kidney disease symptoms don’t present until the disease is advanced, so be cautious. Some of the symptoms you should watch for include:

  • Tiredness, lack of energy, low concentration
  • Poor appetite
  • Sleep troubles
  • Muscle cramps at night
  • Swollen feet or ankles
  • Eye puffiness, especially in the morning
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night

So, what can you do to keep your kidneys healthy? The most critical factor, in general, is to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity often causes hypertension and diabetes, which result most often in kidney disease.

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If you suspect kidney disease, some basic lab tests can help diagnose the issue. A urine test of your albumin to creatine ratio and a blood test for creatine are typically the first steps. Your physician will use those results to calculate your glomerular filtration rate or GFR; this will determine what stage you are in, if any, of kidney disease.

Check out this infographic from the National Kidney Foundation to learn more.

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